Divorced and separated couples have been urged to be reasonable and co-operative about child contact arrangements during the Covid-19 outbreak.
It comes amid mounting evidence that some people are using the current crisis as an excuse to prevent their former partner from seeing their children.
The Guardian newspaper reports how family lawyers “have been inundated with inquiries from divorced parents about where their children should stay” during periods of restricted movement,
Some have used the lockdown as an excuse to withhold access on spurious grounds such as, “my ex won’t be able to teach my child their times table”.
There are also reports of parents refusing to return children after visits, claiming that they need to self-isolate. Some have made their children so frightened of catching Covid-19 that they don’t want to return to the other parent.
It’s understandable that tensions are heightened during times of crisis and of course parents may be genuinely concerned for their children’s safety, but they must always remember to be fair and reasonable.
The family courts take a dim view of anyone who tries to thwart court orders or act in any way that may be detrimental to their children, and that includes unreasonably withholding access to the other parent.
The government has made it clear that even during periods of lockdown, there is a special dispensation for children. Its guidance says: “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division at the High Court, has urged parents to be reasonable and put the needs of their children first and foremost.
In a statement he said: “The country is in the middle of a Public Health crisis on an unprecedented scale.
“The expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time.”
Thankfully, most parents are behaving reasonably, but in cases where they are not, legal action can be taken resolve any problems.
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