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Coronavirus Crisis - Our Advice to Separated Parents

 

With the government officially closing schools and preventing all non-essential travel, many of you will be wondering what this means for separated parents.

Please consider our advice below to support you through these unprecedented times.

Maintain Current Arrangements  

Some of you may have a Child Arrangement’s Order (CAO) in place that sets out the living arrangements of your child and the contact they have with their non-residence parent.

Children with parents who do not live in the same household are allowed to move between households as an exception to the strict lockdown rules. Transporting a child from one home to another is currently classed as a legitimate journey. Therefore, your CAO should be adhered to unless to do so would put your child or others at risk.

If both parents agree to temporarily suspend the arrangements of an existing CAO then we recommend you record any agreements in writing so that there are no misunderstandings. Sir Andrew McFarlane (the most senior family law Judge) has advised that this agreement can be recorded in an email, text message or via a note.

What if Parent or Child Needs to Isolate?

Due to self-isolation or any other medical concerns the arrangements set out in your CAO may be hard to adhere to.

If you have concerns that you or your child is ill and they need to remain at home, you should communicate honestly with the other parent. If communication between parents is unachievable then you should ask a trusted third party such as your solicitor to help. 

It is ultimately the parent’s responsibility to work together and act in their child’s best interest. Both parents need to come to a sensible decision about whether their child should move between households by considering all the relevant circumstances.

In particular, you should consider: the child’s present health, the risk of infection and whether either household contains vulnerable persons.

If it is decided that the child should not move between households then the resident parent should unsure the other parent has indirect contact with the child. Digital forms of communication are advisable such as Skype video calling or FaceTime. 

Conflicting Opinions

We understand that there is bound to be disagreements between some parents. If you cannot come to an agreement regarding arrangements then please contact your solicitor. Your solicitor will be able to advise you as to whether your current arrangement complies with government guidance or whether it needs to be altered. If you need to alter current arrangements, make sure you update the other parent as to your reasons why.

If you alter arrangements and this is later deliberated in court, the court will consider whether:

  • The alteration was made in order to follow official advice and the Stay at Home Rules in place at that time.
  • Whether the parents acted reasonably and sensibly.
  • The communication between parents and whether any alternative methods of maintaining contact were implemented, such as scheduled video calls.
  • Other specific evidence relating to the child or family.

If an urgent application to Court is required then please call our office 0800 652 3371. We are doing Facetime and Skype meetings as well as telephone conferences to support not only our existing clients but their friends, family and associates.

We are trying to ensure that anyone in difficulty has access to a solicitor for help and advice to reassure them that there are still things we can do to keep them safe and confident through these difficult times.

Our solicitors are taking phone calls at home. Please do feel free to contact them via calling 0800 652 3371 or emailing info@lblaw.co.uk.

Court Hearings

The Courts are working to ensure scheduled hearings can be achieved remotely and adjourning those that cannot. Most urgent hearings will be going ahead remotely and your solicitor will keep you informed of any updates if you are soon due in court.

It is important your children are not exposed to court hearings if you are taking part in a remote hearing from home.

Alternative dispute resolution such as mediation is available remotely and might be something you wish to consider if suitable.  

Other Advice

The current situation can be confusing to children, please try and agree where possible what information you will be giving to your child about the pandemic in general.

Please try to keep any conversations surrounding child arrangement issues private. Your child should not over hear any discussions regarding court cases or disagreements you may be having with the other parent.

The government will be undoubtedly reviewing lockdown measures soon and we will be updating our pages in accordance to any changes in guidance. 

Please Read the Relevant Official Guidance for More Information

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