Federal justice minister Koen Geens has issued a reminder to the separated parents of children to carry on respecting existing custody-sharing and visitation agreements despite the current confinement.
Today (Saturday) is the international day against parental alienation – the process that takes place when some parents create pretexts for depriving their former partners from having access to their children, often leading to a permanent breach.
The lockdown in place in Belgium at the moment would be a perfect excuse to deprive a parent from access to a child who either lives with the partner or is the subject of a co-parenting arrangement.
But it is also a time of serious disruption of the normal routine for the child, with schools being closed, contact with friends restricted and the same confinement applying to children as to adults.
So Geens took to the press to make a serious point about parental alienation.
“If one parent refuses to deliver the child as agreed, the other parents can file a complaint with the police,” he warned. “Then the prosecutor’s office can prosecute the offending parent.”
Speaking to the French-speaking public broadcaster RTBF, he refined his position somewhat.
The rule applies, he said, “unless the two parents provisionally agree to adopt different rules on access during the coronavirus crisis, or one of the parents is infected with the virus. The Flemish Bar Association and the League of Families, among others, have received many questions on this subject since the start of the measures.”
Parental alienation is not only an injury to the affected parent, it is more importantly a long-lasting injury to the child or children.
“The child has every interest in continuing to see its two parents, and the reverse is also true,” the minister said. “The parents have every interest in seeing their child. But if the child, one parent or both are infected by the coronavirus, it is advised not to transfer the child from one parent to the other. That will avoid a new propagation of the virus. Other changes to the custody regime are only possible if both partners agree.”