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Coronavirus and Child Arrangements

View profile for Jonathan Corbishley
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Coronavirus and Child Arrangements

The current unprecedented times are leading to uncertainty throughout British society. As family lawyers we are receiving a significant number of enquiries from separated parents about how and whether they should continue with arrangements in light of the spread of coronavirus, school closures and further government advice.

Government Advice

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced much stricter measures on the evening of 23 March 2020. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, has since appeared on both Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast News on 24 March 2020. In his initial interview he indicated that all children should remain with the parent in whose care they currently are. In his second interview he both apologised for his lack of clarity in the earlier interview and helpfully clarified the government’s advice which is that all children of separated parents under the age of 18 should continue to see both of their parents.

The clear government advice is welcome news for separated parents and means in general that:

  • If there is a Court Order in place that defines the time children spend with each of their parents this should continue; and
  • If there is no Court Order in place then the normal arrangements should continue.

This has to be taken alongside the new measures announced by the prime minister last night, for example that no public gatherings should take place of more than two people and that everyone should remain at home unless it is absolutely necessary for them to go out. Such measures mean that, if at all possible, handovers should take place at parents’ properties.

In short, the government advice means that parents should be able to remain safe while following the essential government national emergency measures and also ensure their children maintain a real relationship with their other parent.

We understand that each case will be different though and every family will have their own particular set of circumstances.  We would encourage all co-parenting families to discuss matters openly and try to agree what is best for the children.  If you're a parent who is being refused time with their child and are unsure if this is reasonable, or if you're a parent who doesn't know whether to allow their child to visit their other parent's home, you may need some legal advice at this time.  We can offer telephone appointments with experienced children solicitors who can provide practical and sensible guidance at this difficult time.  Contact any of our offices to book a telephone consultation today.

Parenting Together

It is clear, at this time, that it is essential for all separated parents to work together in the best interests of their children. There are arrangements to sort around home schooling, collecting and dropping off and maintaining contact with wider family members. Some children are becoming anxious and will become more so as the school closures continue and they have to remain indoors for most of each day. A joint approach from their parents will enable them to thrive in their home schooling and ensure that they continue to feel safe and well.

The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) have released guidance for separated parents in managing contact during this national health crisis. There are also tools available online, such as the CAFCASS Parenting Plan https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/, which are useful resources to help parents consider the many elements of successful co-parenting.

In addition it is important for all parents to consider the use of technology to maintain relationships, particularly during any period of isolation, such as FaceTime and Skype.

Courts

The Courts remain open for business for urgent matters. An application to court, particularly at this time, is a last resort, however, if issues arise over child arrangements which are incapable of resolution and are urgent then you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

If you have any concerns relating to this or need urgent legal advice, we are available 24/7 by telephone on 08000 320999 or email mail@familylawgroup.co.uk

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