Covid-19 and child arrangement orders: advice for separated parents

Firstly, we at MSB hope that all of our clients and colleagues across the city and country are keeping safe and well amidst the ongoing Covid19 crisis. 

We’ve been keeping a careful eye on government advice which has ultimately reflected upon the advice that we are able to offer our clients in respect of contact arrangements where parents are separated. 

We have received an unprecedented number of enquiries from new and existing clients alike, seeking clarification as to what they should do in the current circumstances where a child is to spend time with separated parents.  

Michael Gove tried to clarify the position on 24 March, stating that where parents do not live in the same household as children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”. This establishes an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirements. 

Family practitioners have, on 24 March 2020, received guidance on compliance with family court arrangement orders from the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, The Right Honourable Sir Andrew Macfarlane.  

In summary the guidance is clear. The spirit of any child arrangements order should be complied with and if it is not possible for child to safely move between their parents homes, contact should continue to be promoted and delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child. Suggestions include FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype or other video connection if that is not possible via telephone.  

The guidance suggests that they should be last resorts and that parents should try to agree to vary any arrangements set out in a child arrangements order. If any variation is agreed, it is suggested that parties make a note of that agreement by email or text message.  

The President of the Family Division quite rightly points out that even if some parents think it is safe for contact to take place, it might be entirely reasonable for a parent to feel worried about this. The decision whether to move a child between parental homes is a decision for the childs parents to make only after a sensible assessment of the circumstances including the present health of the child, risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other. Communication is key and is actively encouraged by the guidance. 

If however you are still concerned about sending a child for contact to the other parent’s home, or returning a child to their usual residence, you should not hesitate to seek specific legal advice as each child and each family situation will be very different. 

 If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent, many mediators are still accepting referrals. If you feel that you require the services of a solicitor to try to reach an amicable solution to ensure the spirit of a child arrangements order is adhered to, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts. 

Contact us, we are here to help

If you have any questions please contact Nikki Harris on the details provided below