The President of the Family Division provided parents with clarity this week about how to deal with a child arrangements dispute during the ongoing Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. This update follows our blog yesterday setting out the recent Government advice.
If one parent is “sufficiently concerned” that if they continue to follow the court ordered arrangements set out in a Child Arrangements Order that they would be in breach of current Public Health England advice, that parent may change those arrangements so that the child arrangements are safe.
The Family Court has explained that if the other parent subsequently questions in a court hearing that decision to change the child arrangements, the court is “likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the Stay at Home Rules in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relation to the child or family.”
If the provisions of a Child Arrangements Order are not adhered to during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the court expects the parent with whom the child is living to set up and maintain regular video connected contact, or if that is not possible, by telephone.
If your child is currently the subject of a Child Arrangements Order and you have concerns that the provisions do not enable you to apply with the advice of Public Health England, consider the following:
- Have I contacted the child’s other parent in writing to raise these concerns, setting out why you consider that it is not possible to comply with the court order and comply with the advice of Public Health England?
- If the other parent does not agree with your concerns, have I objectively considered whether the approach I wish to take will subsequently be viewed as “reasonable and sensible”?
- If I decide to unilaterally change the arrangement, have I emailed the child’s other parent setting out the reasons for my decision, attaching weblinks to current government advice to support my approach.
- Have I offered and established regular video link contact, at a set time on set days, and do I continue to maintain a record of the dates on which video contact does take place?
Our firm remains fully operational during the current crisis, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice.
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