I have received many questions asking about whether contact between separated parents and children can still go ahead.
The simple answer is yes (as long as the children or adults they are visiting are not showing any of the symptoms, in which case the quarantine rules apply).
There is a big danger and that the resident parent could use the COIVD-19 outbreak as an excuse to deliberately stop contact due to their own feelings towards the non-resident parent. At times like these it is vital for both parents to put their own feelings to one side and do what is best for their child or children.
On 26th March 2020 Parliament introduced the Health Protection (Corona Virus Restrictions) (England Regulations 2020). Which provides for leaving the property.
So, what does that mean in relation to Child Arrangements Orders?
The simple answer is that wherever agreed or where the court have ordered, the non-resident parent is allowed to have contact with their child/children as they normally would.
Either parent may be permitted to leave their house in order to collect and return their children. This can be from each other’s homes or at a previously agreed meeting place. Clearly it is best to use common sense in relation to meeting places being in public areas. You should also not use public transport to take your child/children to and from contact
It is also important to note that if both parents agree, it is permissible to temporarily vary the arrangements in a Child Arrangements Order. It would be advisable for each parent to record the agreement by email or text.
If it is the case that a parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the Court Order would be against public health advice then that parent may vary the arrangement to one they consider safe such as video calls or FaceTime. The Court will also expect the non-resident parent to be offered alternative contact. Parents must bear in mind that the Court will, in a subsequent hearing, look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly or whether that decision was done out of malice or spite.
Where there has been supervised contact ordered either in the community or in a contact centre, this will now not happen due to regulations. If contact is being supervised by grandparents, this will also need to be varied.
If one or both parents have a new partner who does not live in the same household, unfortunately isolating rules apply and they should not continue to physically see their new partner. Any contact should be by video link / FaceTime or telephone or using platforms such as WhatsApp. If one parent is already living with their new partner then the other parent has every right to ask questions to make sure that the new partner is adhering to government guidelines.
For any further questions or if you are confused as to what you need to do, please do call the family team at Jarmans 01795 472291
What to do if a Child Arrangements Order needs to be varied ?
In summary, if proceedings have concluded and providing both parents are in agreement, a simple confirmation of the agreement made by text or email should suffice.
If proceedings are continuing, please seek advice from your solicitor.
We also offer a free, 15-minute, pre-bookable phone call with one of our experienced family law team. Alternatively, we offer a fixed £99 fee inc VAT for a 45-minute meeting with one of our highly experienced family team. If you would like some confidential advice about a family legal issue, contact us today to book a meeting.