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Child Arrangements during Lockdown

24 April

Child Arrangements during Lockdown

We recently published an article about the guidance from the President of the Family Law Division on arrangements for children during lockdown.

Since then, we have received several calls from parents who are stuck in a position where there have been issues with children spending time with the other parent during the Covid19 outbreak. 

As mentioned in the previous blog (see here), the guidance is that children should continue to move between households as long as both households are healthy.  We have encountered problems where a parent is refusing to allow the children to visit because one parent is still working as a key worker or where the other parent is living with a person who is perceived to be in a vulnerable category. 

We have been contacted by a number of people who have said that the guidance is being misinterpreted and that they have not been allowed to spend time with their children at all. The guidance is clear. For parents who live separately, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes and subject to an assessment that the children are not being put at risk. 

The big issue here for many parents is a breakdown of trust and communication. 

During these times we have referred several families for Mediation to see if the issues can be resolved. We have also made clear that the guidance from the head of the Family Courts is that anybody who is not complying with a Court Order could end up facing legal action in the long term. 

When the lockdown was announced there was some confusion caused by Michael Gove indicating that children were to remain in the household they were currently in.  This was incorrect  and the guidance has since been clarified.  It is hoped that this will be developed further so that it is made clear that children should move between the two homes during this period rather than simply saying that they can move between homes. 

We have also received calls from people who are being denied indirect contact such as telephone calls, video calls and Facetime.  Once again, the guidance is clear.  In the event that there is a risk caused by the children moving between their two homes, the parents should work together to make sure that the children and the parent can remain in contact.  At a time such as this, the primary way of maintaining indirect contact is via video calls and telephone communication.  This should happen frequently, should be encouraged by both parents and facilitated by the parent where the child lives. 

There is no doubt that the quality of time spent with a child during video communication or telephone calls is not the same as spending time with a child face to face, however during these times we must all do what we can to support relationships between parents and children where this is clearly in the children’s best interests. 

Mediation services are still running and to some extent mediation can be more successful if parents have concerns about being in the same room together. Mediations are being conducted remotely. People should also be assured that the Courts are still running with remote hearings where necessary to resolve these issues. 

If you have any queries then please contact our family department on 0114 220 2186.