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Child Contact Arrangements during the Coronavirus – What you need to know

In these unprecedented times you may be asking what happens about child contact, can it still go ahead despite the Government lockdown? What happens if I am self-isolating and am concerned about not complying with a Court Order.

We answer some of the most often asked questions below.

The Government guidance issued alongside the Stay at Home Rules deals specificially with child arrangements; it says:

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

This means that there is an exception to the “Stay at Home” requirement to allow children to see both parents, however it does not mean that children must be moved between homes.

The President of the Family Division has given guidance on what to do in these wholly unforeseen circumstances. The decision whether a child is to move between parents houses is for the child’s parents to make after sensibly assessing the circumstances which include the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other. If you cannot agree to vary the arrangements, and one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with a Child Arrangement Order would be against current Government advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe.

However, when the Coronavirus crisis is over, if their actions are questioned in the Family Court, the Court will look at whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in light of the official advice and the specific circumstances.

Where direct contact does not take place, the parties will be expected to make use of remote contact such as Face-Time, WhatsApp, Face-Time, Skype, Zoom or any other type of video link and where that is not possible by phone.

The guidance is that in the short term people should not be attending Child Contact Centres. Some centres are looking at alternative ways to ensure that child contact can continue to take place by exploring alternative ways such as working with families to see if trusted people or family members can fulfil the role of the contact centre, or by using indirect contact.

Court hearing are moving to remote hearings, it may be that your Court hearing is delayed but you may not know until the day before the hearing.

Further information can be found on the CAFCASS website at https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/covid-19-guidance-for-children-and-families/

 

Should you require further advice on any of the above, or any other advice relating to children’s matters, please contact us where a member of our experienced family team will listen to your concerns and advise you.

Written by

Jane Chandler
Associate Solicitor
Edgbaston
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