Thursday, November 12th, 2020
I’m sure for many of us, the announcement of a second lockdown was difficult to digest and again many questions were raised regarding court orders and how they can/cannot be complied with. Many questions are arising around Child Arrangement Orders in respect of contact – given the government’s current ‘stay at home’ guidance in response to the second wave of coronavirus.
The government initially published guidelines regarding Child Arrangement Orders on Monday 23rd March 2020. The initial advice was that if the parents do not live in the same household then children can be moved between their parents’ homes. More recently, on Saturday 1st November 2020, the Prime Minister announced that children can and should continue to have contact with a co-parent who does not reside in the same household. This means if a parent is having overnight contact every weekend, that contact should continue as arranged and the child can move between households for contact purposes or for shared care arrangements.
Parents should not use the outbreak of Covid-19 to prevent children from seeing the other parent or a reason for not complying with a court order. Unless there are justified medical or self-isolation issues, children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each parent as previously arranged between the parents or as recorded in any Child Arrangement Orders.
If there is a chance that complying with the contact arrangements may put your child or others at risk, then alternative arrangements for indirect contact facilitated by Skype, Facetime, Zoom or other video calling apps should be agreed between the parents. It is important to ensure that the child continues to have the appropriate level of contact with the other parent to maintain stability.
According to the most recent government guidance published on the National Association of Child Contact Centres website, contact centres remain open and contact arranged to take place in a contact centre will still go ahead providing the necessary rules of the contact centre are followed and complied with.
If you are concerned that you cannot agree contact arrangements with a co-parent and you are worried that will not be able to see your child, or if you are worried about your child moving from home to home and not being able to facilitate indirect contact during the outbreak of Covid-19, please contact us on 020 7228 0017 to speak to a member of our specialist Family & Divorce Law team who will be happy to assist.
Tash Fairweather is a Trainee Solicitor in Hanne & Co’s Family & Divorce Law Department