Although lockdown restrictions have been lifted, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing and many of you will be wondering what this means for separated parents.
Please consider our advice below to support you through these unprecedented times.
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.
During the last lockdown period 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 was 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.
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.
We understand that there are 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:
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.
Many of our solicitors are now back in the office, but are also taking phone calls when working at home. Please do feel free to contact them via calling 0800 652 3371 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With COVID-19 vaccination gathering pace, parents will need to give mutual consent if the programme is extended to children.
There are currently no plans to vaccinate children against COVID-19 because they are at lower risk than adults, but tests are being carried out to assess whether a vaccination for children would help reduce the risk of transmission.
It is important to talk through your wishes ahead of any decision to add children to the programme. A child should not be vaccinated unless every person who holds parental responsibility for them has given consent. Therefore, if there is a dispute regarding vaccination, as a parent (or other holder of parental responsibility) you should seek legal advice on the best way to proceed.
As a parent, your view will be taken into account by the court but will not be determinative unless the view has a real bearing on the child’s welfare - the focus will be on the child’s best interests. It is difficult, however, to foresee a situation where a vaccination against COVID-19 that is approved for use with children would not be endorsed, unless there is a credible development in medical science. We would advise you to obtain all relevant medical evidence about your child before starting legal proceedings.
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.
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.