Children Visiting Separated Parents During Lockdown
The COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic has hit the whole of society extremely hard, none more so than children whose parents have separated. I have been contacted by clients in these uncertain times as to the appropriate steps to take.
The President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, the Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane, has offered clear guidance as to what should happen during “lockdown” and for the foreseeable future:
- Government guidance issued alongside rules specifically dealing with child contact arrangements states that where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
- However, the decision to move between parental homes should be made following a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s health, risk of infection from the parent and any third party and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household.
Both of the child’s parents (provided the father is named on the child’s birth certificate) have parental responsibility and therefore the Court will expect both parents to make a sensible and positive decision in the best interest of the child’s welfare.
However, if in the unlikely event an application is made by either parent to the Family Court, the court is likely to consider if each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice given. Sir Andrew added that if parents were to act in a “cynical and opportunistic manner”, perhaps by unnecessarily withholding contact, the Court will see this as wrong, particularly if there is already an Order in place. Please also note that whilst not ideal, substitutes for physical contact should be considered, in particular, one to one video communication.
At Walker Foster, we appreciate this is an extremely fraught time for individuals who may not have seen their children for some time. If you wish to speak to me, please either e-mail [email protected] or telephone 01756 700200.