Coronavirus outbreak and adhering to a Court Order such as a Child Arrangement Order

This is a tough time for everyone at the moment, especially for those who are separated from their loved ones. After months of battling, emotional stress and tiredness, and huge expense, a court has finally ordered each party to perform specific arrangements for each parent to have contact with their children.

The weekly or fortnightly visits have worked well, and you have spent some quality time with your children when all of a sudden, the deadly announcement is made from the government telling people to stay home and self-isolate if they consider themselves at risk of contracting COVID 19.

We have been inundated with enquiries from people wishing to know where they stand with enforcing the Court Order that is in place when the other party refuses them access, contrary to the Order. They wish to know if they can go straight back to court and have the other party penalised by the court for going against the Court Order that they have fought so hard to get.

This is a difficult one because first and foremost the court and of course the parents priority is the welfare of the child. It could be argued that by insisting on the child being taken out of the safety of the home to travel to see the other parent goes against this overriding objective. The consideration would then have to be given to the circumstances and the status of the members of the household that the other parent is wishing the child to be taken away from so that they can see the child.

It is all about flexibility and compromise and it would be fair to assume that if you are putting your own feelings over the child’s safety and welfare then take a step back and ask whether you could compromise.

The government guidelines currently state for people to only go out if it is essential. We are being told to only travel if it is necessary and to avoid taking public transport where possible. Finally, if we are self-isolating then we are advised to stay indoors for a period of 14 days.

If you ponder on the above, then you may find that you could suggest the following:

  1. Re-arrange to have the child or children after the 14 period is up. This may mean that you have missed a slot but at least you know the children are safe and have complied with the government guidelines.
  2. Suggest that when the other parent and children are out of isolation for them to only get in the car and drive directly to your door or if it is some distance then a mutual place (which may be already set out in the Court Order) and then the only exposure to the children is from one parent’s car to the other.
  3. Accept that you may miss some of your visits but suggest that you keep a note of this time missed and then propose to have the children for a block visit to make up for your time lost, which is reasonable.

All of the above are important if it sadly did result in another visit to court.

However, threats with court action before you have shown you are willing to compromise will not make things better and may even make the other parent put the shutters down resulting in further time without your children until all this pandemic is over.

If you still feel strongly about enforcing the Court Order, it is worth noting that you may well be successful in that it could be deemed as essential for the child to travel on the grounds that you are co-parenting and the child needs to see both parents. It could also be considered as necessary for the other parent to travel so that the child can be safely delivered to the other parent.

The issue is costs and the risk that the judge will be sympathetic to the other parent’s decision due to the outbreak and wishing to keep the children safe and adhere to the government guidelines. You have then not only made things worse but also have had to shell out a lot of money.

The most important thing is compromise and ensuring you have the child’s best interest at heart instead of it just being another battle between two parents whose relationship has broken down so much that they cannot agree on anything.

Hopefully you are able to agree between yourselves but if not and you need further advice, contact us now either by email or on the phone.

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