Following Boris Johnson’s announcement indicating that we all should remain home for the next 3 weeks, many separated parents with children were left confused as to what this may mean for their child arrangements.
The government position was that the restrictions should not stop children moving between their parents’ homes, however the Family Courts themselves have taken a step further in issuing clear guidance.
The President of the Family Division, The Rt Honourable Sir Andrew McFarland has reminded parents with Child Arrangements Orders that they have parental responsibility and to exercise the same appropriately. He has indicated that this exception to the lockdown rules does not mean that children must be able to move if it is likely to cause them some harm. A certain degree of common sense needs to be considered. Key considerations needs to be the child’s own health, the risk of infection and whether any vulnerable persons are present either in their own home or where the child will be having contact.
Where face-to-face contact cannot take place, there is an expectation from the court that suitable alternative arrangements are put into place. This can include via FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom or other similar digital platform.
The best way to make arrangements stick is for parents to communicate. If agreement cannot be reached, then either parent can exercise their parental responsibility to put in place arrangements they feel are safe. That parent however should be aware that at a later stage the court are likely to scrutinise any decision and make a determination as to whether that was in the child’s best interest.