Child Arrangement Orders and COVID-19

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During these new and uncertain times, many parents are naturally worried about child arrangements and potentially breaching Court orders. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to navigate and steady the ship.

Contact & Self-isolation

Unless there is a justified medical or self-isolation reasons (or any future government guidelines about leaving your house), contact with the other parent should continue in the usual way.   Any Child Arrangement Orders should be complied with, unless it would put the child or others at risk to do so. This will help your child have a sense of continuity and reassure them that the other parent is safe and well.

Facilitating Contact

Unless you or your child has an underlying health condition or other vulnerability, transporting them from one house to the other parentwould, based on the current government guidelines be a ‘legitimate journey’.  It is best to avoid use of public transport to transport them if you can.

Changes to Child Arrangements Orders

If parents agree that child arrangements should be changed temporarily then they can of course do so.  It is a good idea to confirm this agreement in writing even if this is just by email or text message.  If parents do not agree to a change in child arrangements which are set out in an order but one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the Order would be against current Public Health advice, that parent may change the arrangement to one which they consider to be safe.  This may need to be justified to the Family Court at a later date if the parent who doesn’t agree the change challenges it.  There is likely to be questions about whether term time patterns apply or whether we are in a period which could be considered as school holidays. The Court would expect the parents to act in the best interests of the children. It is arguable that this is holiday time but this is certainly a grey area and we would encourage parents to take legal advice. If agreement cannot be reached, mediation can be used if both parties are willing to use this otherwise an application to court will need to be made.

Supervised contact

Contact centres are currently closed and most options for supervised contact do not currently fall within Public Health advice.  If there are safeguarding concerns which cannot be allayed then it will not be possible for direct contact to take place.  Skype or FaceTime contact is therefore likely to be the most appropriate option.

Be creative

There are many ways to facilitate contact and keeping in touch with the other parent and family members – Skype or FaceTime are both great platforms to keep in touch and can be used to read stories, sing and play together with options to have multiple people talking at the same time. With older children, consider a ‘watch party’ – where you gather online to watch a movie or video in ‘real time’.

Adult conversations

Be sure to be extra vigilant and mindful when discussing Court proceedings or disputes with the other parent. This will be particularly relevant in the next few weeks as Court hearings may take place via Skype/teleconferencing. Exposing children to such disputes can result in feelings of confusion, having divided loyalties and may cause emotional harm.

Speak to our family law experts today.

IBB Solicitors’ family law practice can provide  expert advice on all children law issues. To contact the family law team please email familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk or call 03456 381381.