COVID – 19 Separated Families and Child Arrangements
25 MAR 2020
The recent announcement by the Prime Minister on 23rd March 2020 about staying at home and away from others for the following three weeks has caused confusion for a number of separated parents about the arrangements for their children.
On 24th March 2020 the government rules were clarified that “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”. This does not provide clarity for separated families with issues about protecting vulnerable individuals, or where the children maintain relationships at other venues such as Child Contact Centres.
As the recent Guidance from the Courts via the President of the Family Division states “This establishes an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement; it does not however, mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the parents to make after an assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s health, the risk of infection, and the presence of any vulnerable individuals in the household.”
Each separated family will need to consider their own arrangements and how they can continue safely, in some circumstances moving from visits to keeping in touch more often using Skype or FaceTime. You could also consider the children making a video to send or looking online for new ideas such as Watch Parties.
What is most important in these exceptional circumstances is that parents put their children’s best interests first and do their best, where it is safe to do so, to work together and make agreed decisions about their children’s arrangements. This is a time for parents to be as flexible as possible whilst maintaining a sense of routine for the children.
Where there is an existing Court Order or in the event of a dispute our experienced Family Lawyer’s remain available to help. We are working from home in accordance with the government’s guidance but are contactable on the usual office number and email addresses and via Skype for face to face meetings.
We also recommend to you the CAFCASS guidance which is available at www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-up-parents-and-carers/covid-19-guidance-for-children-and-families
If necessary and as a last resort, either parent can make an application to the Court who are now dealing with as many hearings as possible remotely i.e. via telephone hearings or facilities such as Skype
We can help you do your best to reach agreed decisions which will save you the cost, uncertainty and delay of applying to the Court. Please do not hesitate to contact our experienced family lawyers Nicola Codd and Barbara Richardson for advice.