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Children Together

 

Managing child arrangements during Coronavirus

 

During these uncertain times, many parents have been worried about the impact that the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will have on existing child arrangement orders and future hearings.

It is hoped that the family law advice below will provide useful and simple guidance to parents concerned about having contact with their children and for those concerned about future hearings.

 

Can I have contact with my child?

The short answer is yes. The government updated their guidance on 12 June 2020 for staying alert and staying safe, as well as social distancing. Where parents live in separate homes, children under 18 can move between their homes for contact. However, parents will have to behave sensibly and consider what is safe and make their own best judgment as a parent.

 

Should I send my child for contact?

Whether or not there is a court order in place you still need to behave like a sensible parent.

If anyone in your household is symptomatic, and you are therefore self-isolating, you should not be moving your child between homes for contact with the other parent. In addition, if anyone in the other parent’s household is symptomatic or self-isolating or if your child is poorly with something that might be coronavirus, then you should not be sending your child for contact. If you are not self-isolating and your household does not have symptoms, then contact should continue as normal.

 

Do I have to follow a Court Order?

A court order is meant to be followed; they can be enforced if they are not adhered to. If it is safe, reasonable and practical to do so, you should follow the court order and expect the other parent to do the same.

In light of current events, if there are requirements to adjust the order and if parents are able to agree to changes then you do not have to follow the court order to the letter. If parents are unable to agree about what is safe and sensible you will have to make your own best judgment as a parent.

Communication with the other parent is key. Even if you think it is safe for contact, the other parent might have genuine concerns. They might not be stopping contact just to be difficult or using coronavirus as an excuse. Even if you are sceptical as to whether a parent’s concern is genuine or not try to remember, if this is an excuse it won’t be forever.

A child arrangements order can be enforced by making an application for an enforcement order. Even if an order is proved to have been broken there is a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’. Each case is unique, however not sending a child to contact due to self-isolation is likely to be viewed as reasonable.

Instead of escalating matters try to find other ways to have contact with your children, even if you can’t see them. If a parent is self-isolating, you could suggest that any lost time is made up with a chunk of time once self-isolation comes to an end.

The guidance issued most recently by the President of the Family Division (the most senior family judge in England & Wales) can be found on their latest guidance.

 

Will my hearing go ahead?

The courts are working to ensure that urgent and important hearings go ahead. The court’s first priority will be to deal with urgent hearings that are essential to keep children safe and which cannot wait. They have to prioritise. Lots of judges and lawyers are now in self-isolation.

The default position should be that hearings are conducted by telephone or video link rather than by attending court buildings. However, systems for setting up hearings are still being worked through.

If you have a hearing coming up, be prepared for it to postponed. If it is to take place this will most likely be via a telephone call or video link.

If you have a solicitor acting for you they will endeavour to keep you updated, whilst many solicitors’ firms are now closed to the public they are operating remotely and should still be reachable. It is also important to keep up to date with your emails to ensure you gain visibility of any updates from the court and your solicitor promptly.

The guidance issued most recently by the President of the Family Division (the most senior family judge in England & Wales) can be found on their latest guidance.

 

How can Tozers help?

If you would like to speak with one of our dedicated team for support and advice on child contact arrangements, Coronavirus or any other family-related matters please contact our Family Law Team or visit their hub page.

Contact the team

 

 

Last updated on 12/06/2020