7th April 2020
Government guidance issued alongside the Stay at Home Rules on 23rd March 2020 deals specifically with child contact arrangements. It says:
“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
Parents or those with Parental Responsibility must make the decision about whether a child is to move between parental homes during the Covid-19 crisis. Factors such as the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other should be taken into account when making that decision.
Even if some parents think it is safe for contact to take place, it might be entirely reasonable for the other parent to be genuinely worried about this. If one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the arrangements that are set out in a Court Order such as a Child Arrangements Order would be against current advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe. If the other parent wants to challenge that they may do so in the Family Court. The Court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the Stay at Home Rules in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family.
Parents can agree to temporarily vary any Child Arrangements Order in place if they deem it necessary to protect the health of the child or other people. It is advisable for each parent to record such an agreement in a note, email or text message sent to each other.
Alternative arrangements must be made where possible to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent by Face-Time, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.
These are difficult times but the watch word is to be guided by the Government guidelines and if you are going to change arrangements for the time that a child spends with each of his or her parents those changes should be reasonable, agreed if at all possible and communicated clearly. Such changes should also be reviewed on a regular basis.
If you wish for further advice on this matter or any other family issue please contact a member of the family team on 0800 652 8373.
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