Following some initial confusion regarding Government restrictions on movement during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the latest guidelines have confirmed that children under the age of 18, whose parents are separated, can move between households. Consequently, if there is a Child Arrangement Order in place setting out contact provisions, then those arrangements can continue.
Nationally recognised family law expert, Rachel Spencer Robb, is a partner at Yorkshire based LCF Law and heads up the firm’s family law team. She has welcomed the clarification.
“The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) guidance recommends that to help children through these unsettling times, they should, wherever possible, continue with their usual routines, which includes spending time with both parents.
“Understandably parents will be concerned about the risk of infection for their children and other members of the households, but clear communication is really important right now. We would suggest that parents make every effort to carry out a sensible assessment of their particular, individual circumstances. Consideration must be given to the health of the children, the risk of infection and the presence of any vulnerable individuals in either parent’s household.
“It’s important to note that once parents agree to temporarily vary the terms of any court order, they should record this in a note, text or email. If one parent individually decides to suspend contact, due to the coronavirus restrictions, the Family Court has made it clear that if the ’word’ of any Child Arrangement Order is varied, then the ‘spirit’ must be delivered and safe, alternative contact arrangements must be put in place. Contact can be maintained using video link technology like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom or Skype or, if this is not possible, telephone contact. It’s essential that children know that the other parent is safe and well for their own emotional stability.”
Any parent that suspends a child’s contact without the agreement of the other parent may have their decision scrutinised by the Family Court at a later date, according to The Right Honourable Sir Andrew McFarlane, who is the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice.
“It is therefore important that the decision to stop or vary contact can be evidenced as reasonable and proportionate in light of official Government advice regarding staying at home.”
For more information on the subject of arrangements for children from separated homes during the Covid-19 pandemic contact a member of the Family Law team at LCF Law. The team is available via telephone, Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp.