Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus. There are only a limited number of reasons which allow you to leave your house – exercise once a day; necessary travel to and from work; essential shopping and medical or care needs.
There has been huge concerns with separated parents as to whether or not contact can still take place between them and their children. It has now been clarified that children are able to visit their non-resident parent and this is a valid reason to leave the house.
Government guidance states: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
Although this establishes an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement, it does not mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether children are to move between parental homes is for the children’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of all the circumstances, including the children’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.
The CEO of Gingerbread (a charity which supports single parent families), Victoria Benson said: “We advise that parents should carefully consider the implications of children travelling between households and the welfare of the child (including the child’s health needs) must be the most important consideration.”
In these unusual circumstances, the best way to deal with these pressing times will be for parents to communicate regularly with one another about their worries and identify what they think would be a practical solution. At all times, they should have their children’s best interests in mind. Parents should try to maintain the status quo as much as possible, but in the current situation, this can prove to be relatively difficult.
If parents agree that the arrangements set out in a Child Arrangements Order should be temporarily varied they are free to do so by exercising their parental responsibility. Having said this, it would be extremely sensible for each parent to record such an agreement in writing, so that they have evidence of this.
Where parents do not agree to vary the arrangements set out in a Child Arrangements Order, but one parent is concerned that complying with the Child Arrangements Order would be against current public health advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe.
As always, parent’s still have to act in their child’s best interests and they can only prevent contact taking place if there are serious concerns surrounding the welfare of their child. A parent cannot simply prevent usual contact taking place because it suits them or for any other reason.
If usual contact is unable to take place as per a Child Arrangements Order, then it is important that alternative arrangements within the Government guidance are put in place to maintain the regular contact between the child and other parent. The best way of achieving this would be for video calls to take place – this could be via Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, BlueJeans or any other available video calling software/service. If this is not possible, then telephone calls should take place instead.
If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our expert legal team on 0208 004 0065, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the form below.
The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.