Coronavirus update – Child Arrangement Orders

Further to our previous article regarding the impact on Child Arrangement Orders in light of the current pandemic we have now had some clarification from The Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew McFarlane who is the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice.

In his statement it was expressed that the key considerations that should be taken when considering the risk factor and possible solutions to the question of whether parents should be forced to adhere to the Order.

He stated that “The key message should be that, where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.” This means that parents should do whatever is necessary to keep the core value of the Order in tact, such as Facetime but to not over step the mark and take advantage of ‘punishing’ the other parent by using the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse when there is no justifiable reason to cut all contact together. It is of course all about circumstances but ensure that every step is taken to not cause problems if the matter ended up back in court in a few months because a Judge will consider very closely if the party who is not adhering to the Order has been reasonable in the circumstances.

Further points are listed below:

  1. “Parents must abide by the ‘Rules on Staying at Home and Away from Others’ issued by the government on 23 March [‘the Stay at Home Rules’]. In addition to these Rules, advice about staying safe and reducing the spread of infection has been issued and updated by Public Health England and Public Health Wales [‘PHE/PHW’].”
  2. “The Stay at Home Rules have made the general position clear: it is no longer permitted for a person, and this would include a child, to be outside their home for any purpose other than essential shopping, daily exercise, medical need or attending essential work.”
  3. Government guidance issued alongside the Stay at Home Rules on 23rd March deals specifically with child contact arrangements. It says:

“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”

  1. This establishes an exception to the mandatory ‘stay at home’ requirement; it does not, however, mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.
  2. Where parents, acting in agreement, exercise their parental responsibility to conclude that the arrangements set out in a CAO should be temporarily varied they are free to do so. It would be sensible for each parent to record such an agreement in a note, email or text message sent to each other.

If you require further information on this, do not hesitate to contact us now. You will also find additional information on the following link:

https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/

 

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