As the UK starts a period of nationwide lockdown to contain coronavirus, some parents are concerned about meeting the requirements of their Child Arrangements Order issued by the Family Court. How does the government’s decision to restrict people’s movements affect the current arrangements between separated parents? Children under 18, whose parents do not reside in the same household, are still able to move between their homes during the lockdown, as an exception to the mandatory “Stay at Home” rule.
During these challenging times, parents are expected to be more flexible than usual, while still working on building new healthy routines for their children. These unprecedented circumstances also require further communication between parents, to guarantee safe adjustments to their children’s daily lives. Parents need to be able to discuss their concerns, for example, in regards to any time or activities outside the house or arrangements of school work resources.
According to the guidance given by the President of the Family Division, parents are currently able to temporarily vary their child arrangement order and advised to record any variations in a note, email or text message sent to each other. When parents do not agree on a variation, with one parent concerned that complying with the child arrangements would be against current government advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider safe. If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting on their own are questioned by the other parent in court, the court will examine if each parent acted reasonably taking into account the official advice and the “Stay at Home” rule in place at that time.
If a child does not get to spend sufficient time with one parent, as a result of a parental agreement or changes in the arrangement, the court will expect alternative arrangements to be made. These need to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent within the “Stay at Home” rule. The following video connection apps are recommended as an alternative to telephone: FaceTime, WhatsApp Face-Time, Skype and Zoom.
Would you like to find out more about child arrangement orders amid the new government’s measures? Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org to request a telephone consultation with our experienced Family Law Solicitors here.