Child Contact Arrangements During Coronavirus Pandemic

6th April 2020
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Many parents are understandably concerned about what the rapidly changing and developing Coronavirus pandemic means for their existing child-care arrangements.

On 23 March 2020, the Government published guidance on staying at home and away from others (social distancing). It was explained, “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.” This means that separated or divorced parents who share care of their children in separate households, may continue to do so according to current Government advice.

The Advice most recently updated on 29 March can be read in full by following the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

On 24 March, the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice sought to provide some further clarifications. He qualified the Government guidance stating, “The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.”

Clearly, if your child is unwell, classified as high-risk, or moves between households where there are elderly or immune-compromised individuals, parents need to be pragmatic and take a sensible view of the situation. He makes it clear that communication between parents at this time is crucial and that Child Arrangement Orders may be suspended or varied temporarily in the interests of safety.

If you find yourself unable to spend time with your child either by self- isolation, agreement with the other parent, or the other parent deciding to vary the usual arrangements, you should look at alternative ways to maintain regular contact with your child – for example, by using FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.

The President of the Family Division’s guidance may be found in full by following this link:

https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/

Further useful guidance is provided by Resolution and Cafcass using the following links:

https://resolution.org.uk/looking-for-help/parents-children-the-law/maintaining-relationships-with-your-children/practical-tips-for-making-contact-work-in-the-coronavirus-outbreak/

https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/covid-19-guidance-for-children-and-families/?highlight=coronavirus

Of course, having taken the above into consideration, if you feel that contact with your child has been halted unnecessarily, you may be able to make an application to the court to decide on arrangements for your child. However, this should be as a measure of last resort with courts expecting parents to work together where at all possible to come to suitable arrangements in the best interests of their children. The court are currently offering remote Hearings by conference calls or video conferencing.

Should you wish to discuss your situation with a member of the Family team, please contact us on 01273 249200 and we shall be only too pleased to assist you.