Child Arrangements during the Coronavirus Lockdown

Yesterday, 23rd March 2020, the Government announced new measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, ordering the UK to stay at home, except in the following circumstances:

1. Shopping for necessities such as food and medicine;
2. Exercise once a day;
3. Medical need or providing care; and
4. Travelling to or from work if you are unable to work from home.

So, what does this mean for child arrangements?

Following the government’s announcement, a guidance document was issued. This document specifically states that “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”.

This provides parents with the express authority to continue to facilitate contact arrangements, and for both parents to continue to spend time with their child.

Child arrangements can be made by agreement through the parents, or if agreement is not possible, they may be court ordered. If your child arrangements are usually made by agreement, our advice is to continue to work together to come to the best solution, ensuring that your child’s welfare is at the forefront of your decision.

If you have a Child Arrangements Order in place, which sets out where your child should live and when they should spend time with the non-resident parent, this Order still remains in place. In usual circumstances, there would be consequences if the Order was breached. However, these are unprecedented times, and it is unclear how the courts will approach any breach during these circumstances. Although, given the issued guidance, it is likely that the court would not look fondly upon any parent who attempts to use this situation as an excuse to prevent contact.

Should this guidance change and physical contact with one parent have to temporarily cease, it is important that parents continue to work together and no parent should use this national emergency as an opportunity to alienate the other parent.

We are fortunate enough to now live in a world where remote communication is easy. There is therefore no reason why, if direct contact cannot be facilitated going forward, that indirect contact cannot be used instead. There are a huge range of ways that a parent can stay in touch with their child remotely such as Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp video. Telephone calls, emails and text messages can also be used, depending on your child’s age.

If you require assistance in interpreting your existing Child Arrangements Order, or would like to speak to someone about your child arrangements generally, please contact a member of our family team at familylaw@woodfines.co.uk.

Whilst our offices are now closed, our team continue to work from home to provide you with the highest quality legal advice and client care.

-Claire Wilkie