Can Children Move Between the Homes of Separated Parents (UK) During Lockdown Three?

  • Guidance for England was published on the 4 January 2021 and states that individuals may not leave or be outside their home except when they have a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse includes continuing existing arrangements for contact between parents and their children where they live apart.
  • The president of the family division of the high court (England and Wales) noted that this does not mean that children must move between homes, the decision should be one for the parents to take after assessing their circumstances.
  • Parents are required to make a decision after a sensible assessment of the circumstances including the children’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other. It is an assessment that should be made taking into account child welfare issues and is something that many parents may require assistance with from a qualified family practitioner.
  • There will be many circumstances that may impact this decision, for example if the children have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Where that has occurred the parents or guardians of the child should arrange for that child to remain at the same address during their period of self-isolation and make alternative arrangements for ongoing contact, for example video or FaceTime calls.
  • There are arrangements where one parent travels a significant distance in order to exercise contact with their child. Such travelling may involve the parent moving between different counties and again may impact the decision in respect of continuing those contact arrangements during the lockdown period.
  • Of course parents are right to be concerned, as whenever a court makes or varies a child arrangements order a warning notice is attached to the order itself warning of the consequences of failing to comply with it. Failure to comply with a child arrangements order is important and needs to be taken seriously, as a breach of the same may incur a fine or imprisonment. The court will not impose such penalties if it is satisfied that the person had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the provision. Again, if there is any concern in relation to lockdown 3 resulting in a breach of a court order the parent should consider taking urgent legal advice.

For more information please contact a member of our family team.