Parents’ rights to care and contact of their children during lockdown
08 Apr 2020
The lockdown announced by the President on 23 March 2020 left many parents who are co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights uncertain as to what the position is in regard to their right to exercise contact and care to their children during the lockdown period.
The position was clarified when the Minister of Social Development (“the Minister”) issued Directions published in Government Gazette No 43182, Government Notice No. R.430. of 30 March 2020 (“the Directions”).
In summary, the Directions prohibit movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights and direct that children must remain with the parent in whose custody they were when the lockdown period began to ensure that children are not exposed to possible infection.
Further, the Directions state that:
- The parent who is not with the children during the period of lockdown shall have regular communication with his/her children, including telephone calls, video calls or via any other form of electronic communication which may include Skype or WhatsApp; and
- It is the responsibility of the parents to communicate with their children about COVID-19 and the temporary precautionary measures that are applied to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Although these measures may appear strict, they have been implemented to ensure children’s health and safety from possible infection. It follows that children can only be removed from the care of the parent with whom they were staying at the commencement of the lockdown period in circumstances in which a parent can show that his/her children are in danger of imminent harm. In such circumstances, the courts would have to be approached for urgent relief, which includes the removal of children in need of care and protection.
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