Child Arrangements FAQs
In light of the recent lockdown we have been asked for advice about what families should do in circumstances where parents who are separated or divorced intend, or are required, to move children between their households to facilitate contact arrangements either under a Child Arrangements Order or on a voluntary basis.
- What guidance has the Government given to separated parents?
Parents must abide by the Staying at home and away from others Regulations which were issued by the Government on the 23 March 2020. A person (including a child) is not permitted to be outside their home for any purpose other than essential shopping, daily exercise, medical need or attending essential work. The Government Guidance does, however, provide:
- Where parents do not live in the same household children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
- If the children are allowed to move between homes of separated parents what does that mean?
The exemption to the stay at home requirement does not mean the children must be moved between homes. The decision as to whether a child should move is a decision that both parents should make. The Government hopes that the parents will assess their individual and family circumstances and take into account any health risk and the presence of vulnerable individuals in one household or the other in making that decision.
- What if the Court Order we have has become completely unworkable because of the logistics and the household composition?
Parents are free to agree that they should temporarily vary a Court Order. If both parents can reach an alternative arrangement other than the terms embodied in an Order they should try and record that agreement in a note or an email exchange.
- What if I do not consider it safe to allow contact to take place?
If there is subsequently a Court Application you may be asked why the terms of the Court Order could not be adhered to. The Court would consider whether a parent acted reasonably in the particular and specific circumstances of the case. The Court is also likely to expect alternative arrangements to be suggested, or made, say, for example, replacing face to face contact with indirect contact such as via FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype or, if that is not possible, by telephone.
- I am due to attend at a Court Hearing in relation to my Child Arrangements Application, what should I do?
The decision as to whether a Hearing takes place, and how, is a matter for the Court. It has to take into account the parties safety in making that decision. The Court will consider whether it is suitable, and possible, to have a Hearing by way of an audio or video link so that all the people who need to participate in the Hearing are able to do so. At the moment the Court are facilitating hearings by telephone and are working on extending technology so more cases can go ahead.
- What if it is not possible for my case to be dealt with by way of telephone or video conference and we do need to attend Court?
The Government has decided to consolidate the work of the Courts into fewer buildings. Some Courts will be open as a priority Court where hearings are able to take place at that venue.
- My case is currently involves CAFCASS, will they be able to progress the case during the pandemic and lockdown arrangements?
From Monday, the 23rd all CAFCASS offices were closed and the staff are working remotely. CAFCASS is promoting use of Skype and looking into other forms of video conferencing to complete interviews with parents and deal with direct work sessions with children and young people.
If you would like to talk through the consequences for your business, please email us and one of our team will get in touch.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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