In these troubling times people are naturally concerned about the health and welfare of their children and wish to take all necessary steps to protect them. Some separated parents are worried about the risk posed to their children when moving them between households and the Courts have now issued guidance on this issue.
The guidance refers to the Government guidance which specifically states “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.” and this is an exception to the ‘stay at home’ rule now in place.
That being said, the Courts have indicated that this does not mean that a child must be moved between homes and the decision is one for the parents. Hopefully in these challenging times parents are able to communicate and reach a decision together that is in the best interests of the children. However, where a Child Arrangements Order is in place and one parent is of the view that the arrangements should be varied but the other parent is not, the guidance states that a parent “may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe. If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting on their own in this way are questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, 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 relating to the child or family”.
If contact arrangements are varied and physical contact does not take place then the Courts expect that relationships and communication will be maintained in other ways (such as via FaceTime, WhatsApp or Zoom).
Ideally in these circumstances parents will be able to try and work together to find the best solution for their children, however, we appreciate that this is not always possible and if you do require any advice on this issue please contact our Family Department on 01524 846846. You can read the full Court guidance here