Child arrangements during a pandemic

By 7th April 2020 Family Law No Comments

On March 23rd every person in the UK was asked to help fight COVID-19 and stay at home in order to support the NHS and save lives.

The government’s unprecedented measures have created uncertainty for separated families and many of our clients have been worried that they may be breaking the court orders if they and their children are self-isolating.

What exactly does the lockdown mean for separated parents?

On March 24th, the president of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane provided advice for separated families and specific information on compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders.

Children’s safety is the primary concern for parents and the court, and although parents should always stick to the agreed contact arrangements, ensuring that your children are in a safe household is important while we are in the middle of a Public Health crisis.

The guidance confirms that; “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.” This is an exception to the mandatory ‘stay at home’ government measure but it does not mean that children can be moved between homes for any reason.

Parents can move their children between homes when they deem necessary for their health, in order to avoid the risk of infection or to avoid infecting vulnerable individuals in one of the households.

What if one of the parents is experiencing symptoms?

The government has advised that if someone in your household is experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus, then the entire household has to self-isolate for 14 days.  So, if your children are in the household they must also self-isolate.

If this happens, it’s important to stay in contact with the children’s other parent and use creative virtual ways to maintain contact from a distance.

After the self-isolation period has passed, child arrangements can continue as usual and your children can move between the households. If both parents are healthy and well, there is nothing to stop the normal child arrangements from continuing.

What if one of the parents is a ‘key worker’?

If one of the co-parents is a key worker, it would be best for the children to live with the parent that is at home or working from home during this time. The government has urged that if it’s possible to care for children at home then they should remain home, but some schools have remained open for the children of key workers.  Here is the government’s guidance.

The circumstances of each family will differ, so please get in touch via our contact form for more information on family arrangements and parental rights.

Read the Guidance on Compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders.

 

Read the Government’s Guidance on Staying at home and away from others.