Child Arrangement During Lockdown Concerns

By May 20, 2020Employment Law

Concerns

If I have a Child Arrangements Order in force for my partner/ex-spouse to see the children of the family do I have to comply with the Order?

Government Guidance say:  ‘Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved from their parent’s homes”. This is clearly an exception to the “Stay at Homes Rules.” The decision that has to be made by parents,  ‘Is it safe for this to happen?”  For example, what occurs if the other parent works for the NHS or as a result of employment is in contact with a number of different people as a result of his or her employment. Clearly this would be unsafe. The parents have to assess what is in the best interests of the children, taking into account the children’s present health, the risk of infection, and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in the household, for example, if the child’s mother or father are asthmatic.       

This is a time when parents should try and communicate with each other about their concerns.  Even if some parents think it is safe for child arrangements to take place by way of visitation or overnight stays others may be genuinely concerned. The parent’s should try and discuss their concerns and try to reach a temporary compromise until lockdown is over and the Order can be fully complied with.

What cannot happen?

Where a Child Arrangements Order is in the force the other parent cannot say there will be no Children’s Arrangements until after lockdown.   In the words of The Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, “The key message is  that, where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of the Court Order to be varied, the spirit of the Order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the children.”

How can parents deliver safe alternative Children’s Arrangements?

The children’s parents can agree Child Arrangements by facetime, skype, zoom, WhatsApp, or other video communication or by telephone. The main message is to keep all family members safe with the children’s interests being paramount.

What action do I take if my ex-spouse/partner refuses to agree on the children’s arrangement when a court order is in force?

Even though there is lockdown the Family Court are still operating mainly by way of remote telephone hearings or hearing via skype. Applications for Children’s Arrangements Orders and Application to Vary or Enforce Children’s Arrangements Order may be made to the Court.

How can I obtain a child/children’s arrangements order during lockdown?

The Court’s are working very hard to ensure that new cases relating to Children are still listed for Hearing. Parents may make an application to the Court for a Children’s Arrangements Order, which will usually be listed for a remote hearing as soon as practicably possible. The Court is doing its best to ensure that both parents are able to continue to spend time with their children unless there is a very good reason why they should not do so.   Clearly it is very wrong for one parent to refuse the other any contact with their children and it is totally unfair to the children.

If you have any concerns relating to children’s disputes please do not hesitate to contact Lynette-Ann A’Court – Senior Family Solicitor at Aston Bond for your free initial interview  – Mobile: – 07754662438 Email – lacourt@astonbond.co.uk