My ex-partner and I cannot agree on access at the moment with the Covid 19 restrictions. We have two children, aged 8 and 5. They live with me and up until March they spent every other weekend and one evening in the week with their dad but that stopped in March due to Covid19. I am in Dublin and he lives in Kildare.

The Covid 19 restriction have meant so many changes for everybody in following the Government’s public health guidance with people staying at home and not making any non-essential journeys.

The care of children has been considered essential travel so there have not been the same limitations in place when it concerns children travelling between households for access with their parents or guardians. Covid 19 has not been a reason to not comply with access orders from the courts, depending on the individual circumstances of those concerned and agreed alternatives have been encouraged so that parent-child relationships are maintained and supported.

What may have had an impact for some is the presence of more vulnerable adults and children in either household and therefore different forms of access may have been agreed initially, with consent, such as socially distant walks in the park and video calls between parents and children.

From 8th June people can meet up to six people from outside their household both indoors and outdoors for social gatherings so that children, their parents and other extended family members can gather together so this is a opportunity for parents and children to see one other. If the children have not seen their other parent for a time then this is the ideal time now to try and find some way to resolve the disagreements around access as it’s important for the children to have the continuity of the relationship with both parents.

In not being able to agree to the form that access is taking at the moment there are few options:

The first is to try to find some way forward for the interim, via a phone conversation or email, from the perspective of the children’s needs in having time with both parents where it is safe to do so. Children having time with both their parents is really important for their relationships with parents and as part of their routine, especially when their usual routines have changed with schools closed and restricted contact with other families and friends.

If this is not working and an agreement, even in the interim, cannot be found then you could contact the Legal Aid Board legal and mediation helpline for some support in finding an agreement for access at this time. They can be contacted on 1890 6150200 or 01 646 9600 and the lines are open from Monday to Friday 10.00am to 12.30pm and from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. If you are able to come to a mediated agreement then this can be made a rule of court.

At this time the Courts are not hearing new cases for access, custody or maintenance. If there is a court order for access or maintenance that has been breached during these times then the relevant court can be emailed for further information.

For legal advice you can contact the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) at www.flac.ieas well as the Legal Aid Board’s helpline.

I pay maintenance for my 3 children, aged 9,6 and 4 but my work has ended for the time-being due to Covid19 so I am in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) of €350 a week. I can’t afford the €120 I usually pay. What should I do as it is a court order?

For now it may be to negotiate with your children’s other parent to pay what you can afford to pay, now that you are on a reduced income. It might be helpful to provide a letter stating what you are paying so that if there is a social welfare payment being made, such as the One Parent Family Payment, then she may be able to have the payment adjusted whilst the maintenance payment is reduced.

It may be useful to contact your solicitor, if you have one or the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) at www.flac.ie  for advice on what to do next or the Legal Aid Board legal and mediation helpline can be contacted on 1890 6150200 or 01 646 9600 and the lines are open from Monday to Friday 10.00am to 12.30pm and from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

I am a single parent with a 15 year old. I was working full time until the business closed due to Covid 19 and I am now on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. I am hoping to be able to start work again in July but I am running out of savings and worried that I cannot keep up with rent payments for our apartment.

You may be eligible for Rent Supplement under the new rules that apply due to theCovid 19 pandemic. You do not have to have a Housing Needs Assessment with a local authority nor do you have to apply for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) instead you can apply directly to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection via your local social welfare office or Intreo centre. The means test for Rent Supplement has also been increased to €350 for a single person plus €40 per child, which is an increase in the usual means test that applies.  You should apply right away and before the current deadline of 19 June.