Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, childcare and school arrangements, which have typically been regular daily routines, have been complicated to the detriment of children welfare and family harmony. With Hong Kong in the middle of the fifth wave, the Government has recently announced to move forward the summer holiday to March and April.
Given the extensive pandemic restrictions, parents are facing a challenging environment and situation to plan and safeguard their children’s wellbeing. For those who are in separation and divorce, this abrupt development may also cause more frictions on making the best arrangements for children.
Here are a few issues divorced/divorcing parents should watch out for:
(1) Vaccination: The Government has announced that children aged 3 to 11 can receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting from mid-February. Vaccination is an important decision that concerns the children’s health. Both parents are expected to make a unanimous decision to vaccinate their children, as children are required to bring along a consent form signed by their parents on the date of vaccination, otherwise, one of the parties would be required to make an application to the Court. Children must also be accompanied by their parents/guardians in person when receiving the vaccination.
(2) Time Sharing: Typically, school holidays are divided equally between divorced parents. With the summer holiday now moved forward to March and April, parents need to work out immediately a childcare arrangement plan for these two months, with consideration of their work schedule. In the unfortunate event that a child falls ill in a parent’s house, the other parent should take a sensible and pragmatic approach to adjust the plan, instead of strictly following the previously agreed schedule.
(3) COVID Restrictions and Specific Family Rules: Parents might have differing rules on hygiene routine and requirements at home. It is advised that parents should communicate to avoid unnecessary arguments, and work together to sort out the best arrangements for their children.
(4) Maintenance: The uncertainties of the pandemic could cause changes in children-related expenses. While one party can make an application to vary the maintenance due to change of circumstances, the process will take time and can be costly. Therefore, parents may consider mediation to resolve their differences for these interim issues.