Child Arrangements during Coronavirus Pandemic

In these unprecedented times separated parents are torn between wanting to protect their child’s health and well being whilst also maintaining the child’s relationship with both parents. You may have an informal child arrangement in place with your former partner or the Court may have made a Child Arrangements Order. Either way it is important that relationships are maintained where it is safe to do so.

Can I move my children between houses during lockdown?

The simple answer is yes. If parties in both houses are fit and healthy and not showing any COVID 19 symptoms then the government have made it clear that children under 18 are permitted to move between households of separated parents.

What if I, my child or someone else in our household is showing symptoms?

You must follow the governments’ guidance and self-isolate. Those with symptoms are to self-isolate for 7 days and if you live with someone who has symptoms you should self-isolate for 14 days. In this case, to prevent the spread of coronavirus your child should not be moving between households.

What if my former partner insists on having contact with our child?

Your household must follow the self-isolation guidelines and your former partner will have to understand that contact cannot take place for between 7-14 days. This is government guidance and penalties are in place if this is not adhered to.

Although direct contact cannot take place during this time, it is important that some form of contact is maintained. Your child may have been in a set routine having contact with both parents. If that contact has had to stop due to coronavirus this will be upsetting and confusing for your child. The non-resident parent should be able to have frequent contact with the child via telephone or video call, messages or emails to ensure their relationship is maintained.

There is a Child Arrangement Order in place, is this still effective?

Yes, the Child Arrangements Order is still effective and this must be complied with. All Child Arrangements Orders should include a warning notice that if the terms of the Order are not complied with, the party in breach could be held in contempt of court and as a result be imprisoned or fined. Therefore, despite our current circumstances Child Arrangements Orders are still effective unless to comply with the Order would go against the government guidance in relation to coronavirus protection and preventing the spread of the disease.

Both parties are to act fair and reasonably and not use the current circumstances as a way to deliberately breach a Child Arrangements Order. If one party is in breach, the other party can make an application to Court to enforce the Order. The party in breach would have to show that there was a reasonable justification for breaching the Order.

You can amend or vary a Child Arrangements Order if both parties consent. This could be to change contact days, times or any terms included in the Order. It may be helpful to document the alterations in writing to prevent any confusion in the future.

 What if we cannot agree?

Communication is key. Try and arrange a telephone call with your former partner to talk about arrangements sensibly. If you cannot agree to alter the child arrangements between yourselves it could be helpful to ask the opinion of a third party. You can instruct a solicitor to write on your behalf and the last resort would be to make an application to Court.

This situation is unusual and requires us all to adjust our usual way of life and be reasonable and sensible when it comes to child arrangements. It is extremely important that both parties focus on the interests of the child and not use the current circumstances as an excuse to breach child arrangements. Both parties must put their differences aside and ensure their child’s wellbeing is the paramount concern.

Contact can be complex so for expert advice please contact our family solicitor Sophie Dodds on 0191 284 0363 or Sophie is working business as usual and is able to offer fixed fee appointments over the telephone or via Skype anytime between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.

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