Covid-19, Separated Families and Court Orders
Everyone will now be aware of the Governments most recent response to tackle Covid-19 and the lockdown of the UK to limit the spread of the virus.
It is likely that separated families will have a number of questions, whether they can still see the children, or whether a Court Order will be enforceable during this time. The Governments position is frequently changing, however written below is the current guidelines.
The Cabinet Minister recently responded to a number of questions and confirmed that children can still continue to see the other parent, wherever this is safe to do so. It should be considered, however, if a parent or another person living in the household is considered to be vulnerable, then contact should be avoided during this time, to ensure their safety.
You should act in the children’s best interest
You should consider how frequent the other parent comes into contact with others who do not form part of their household.
During this period of lockdown, if you have a Court Order in place formalising contact arrangements, you should first consider whether contact taking place will be safe. For example, if your means of travel is via public transport, this should cease to continue during this period. A Court Order should not be enforced during this time. If contact is frequent with the other parent, it may be sensible to restrict this as much as possible.
Despite contact arrangements being formalised, to ensure the safety of the children, and others around you, contact should be suspended with the other parent entirely when this is unsafe to do so. You should not be penalised for this decision. It is understandable that the other parent will wish to see the children during this difficult time, however given the current restrictions, it should cease to continue if you believe the children or others in the household may be at risk. You could also risk a fine.
If the children frequently spend time with others, including grandparents, this should also cease. At all costs, children should be isolated from vulnerable people and of course, to ensure the children remain safe and well. At this time, the children should have no interaction with any other person other than those residing in the same household and when attending for contact with the other parent.
You will note the Government set restrictions yesterday evening and stated you must only leave your home for the following reasons:
- Shopping for necessities, as infrequently as possible.
- One form of exercise a day, such as running or cycling, alone or with household members.
- For medical or care needs, for example to help a vulnerable person;
- Travelling to and from work, but only if you cannot work from home.
Meeting friends, shopping for anything beyond essentials, and gathering in crowds are now banned.
This is an extremely distressing time for everyone, so to ensure relationships are maintained, we would suggest contact is facilitated through social media channels, for example Skype or FaceTime.
The Government’s current position is to review the current measures in three weeks’ time. It is possible these measures may continue into the upcoming months. Wherever possible, it may be beneficial for the other parent to be provided with extended time with the children once these restrictions are lifted. This can be done via a mutual arrangement with the other parent.
We understand parent’s frustration and upset during these unprecedented times, and hope you all remain safe and well. The Government’s stance is changing every single day. Wherever possible, we will update you via our social media channels.
If you further questions, please contact one of the Family Department via email, who will endeavour to respond to you as soon as possible.