Child Arrangements and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Child Arrangements: What shall we do?

Our family solicitors recognise that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is worrying for separated parents especially due the impact the lockdown is having on their child arrangements.

The government has announced strict measures to tackle the spread of the coronavirus which includes Social Distancing and other restrictions on our movements. We are now being told not to meet friends and family which adds to the day to day pressures.

Child arrangements in the current climate

As set out above everyone, including separated parents must now follow the new social distancing rules and this in turn has an obvious impact up any child arrangements.

You should now only leave your house for one of the following reasons:

  1. Shopping for necessities (food and medicines) and even then, very infrequently and only if absolutely necessary;
  2. For one form of exercise per day (alone or with members of your own household);
  3. For a medical need or to provide care/assistance to a vulnerable person;
  4. For the purpose of travelling to and from work but only where this is absolutely necessary, and the work cannot be done from home.

In relation to separated parents and child arrangements the government has issued guidance which alongside the Stay at Home Rules announced on 23rd March 2020 states specifically in relation to child contact arrangements that:

“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”

On the face of it this establishes an exception to the ‘stay at home’ requirement.  It does not however, mean that children must be moved between homes.

Ultimately the decision whether a child should be moved between parents’ homes rests with the parents.  In reaching their decision they should take into consideration the child(ren)’s health; the health of the households, the risk of infection and whether there are any vulnerable people in either household.

Court Child Arrangement Orders

Please be advised that there has been no change in the law.  Therefore, if there is a Child Arrangements Order in force, then at the present time it should be followed and complied with.

Seeking early expert legal advice to help with negotiations between separated couples often avoids the situation escalating in to heated and sometimes expensive court proceedings.  Our family solicitors have the expertise and experience to help you try and resolve things amicably and so why not book a free solicitor appointment today to discuss your specific circumstances.

Remember though, if a party fails to comply with a court order, then it remains open to the other parent to apply to the court to enforce the terms of the order. There is currently ongoing uncertainty however what court hearings the court will deal with.  You should ask us immediately if you have any concerns in this regard and we will try and provide the most up to date position as matters develop.

In these circumstances it may be possible that the parent with the child could argue that they had a justified and reasonable excuse for not adhering to the terms of the order.  It will be very much in the court’s discretion and each case no doubt will be considered on it’s own particular set of circumstances.

Generally, however, the court expects parents to be sensible and this approach has not changed.  Parents are expected to communicate with the best interests of their child(ren) in mind.  A practical solution is often better than contentious court proceedings and the effects of the coronavirus has not changed this.  However, we of course recognise that some in cases this may be inevitable.

We hope this article assists with any issues you may be worried about regarding contact arrangements during the lockdown period.

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Author Colin Freeman View Profile
Colin qualified as a solicitor in 1998. He specialises predominantly in family law, litigation / dispute resolution, wills, probate and settlement agreements and has notable cases reported in the Court of Appeal and High Court.
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