Was Boris right about child contact rights during Covid-19

Category: Divorce, Family

Can children move between their parent’s homes during the pandemic? 

Back at the start of the lockdown in March, we put together advice for separated parents on contact rights. This proved hugely popular and has been read by over 3,000 people! But we wanted to clarify the situation following a statement from the Prime Minister last week. During the press conference Mr Johnson made a claim that scared a lot of people. So we wanted to make sure you were armed with the full facts before things went any further.

There’s an exemption

The Prime Minister was responding to a question during a press conference last Friday when he mis spoke. Hesuggested that the new Coronavirus rules (over the tiered approach), could stop separated parents from spending time with their children. However, this statement DOES NOT comply with the current Government Guidance.

Following the press conference, a spokesperson for Downing Street issued a further statement. It claimed that there was “an exemption for any kind of childcare for separated parents in all tiers”.

Government guidance on contact rights, issued alongside the Stay at Home Rules on 23rd March deals specifically with child contact arrangements. The guidance says, “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”. The guidance however, does not say that children “must” be moved between homes. It is recommended that parents should ensure they assess the circumstances before making any decisions. If there is a risk to the child/children, then the parents should communicate further. This will allow them to determine the best course of action.

This is an unprecedented time. Knowing what’s best for the children can be worrying for everyone involved. However, children should not have to stop spending time with their separated parents unless there is a real risk or safeguarding concern.   

Is there a Child Arrangements Order in place?

If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place, the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary have stated the following:

“Where parents, acting in agreement, exercise their parental responsibility to conclude that the arrangements set out in a Child Arrangement Order 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.

Where, either as a result of parental agreement or as a result of one parent on their own varying the arrangements, a child does not get to spend time with the other parent as set down in the Child Arrangement Order, the courts will expect alternative arrangements to be made to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent within the Stay at Home Rules, for example remotely – by Face-Time, WhatsApp Face-Time, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.”

As with all other advice we give, we need to make the following clear. With all the uncertainty around currently, the guidance might change. It’s therefore best to keep up to date with the guidance via the Government website.

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We can help with contact rights

If you need legal advice on contact rights & arrangements, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can reach our specialist Family team direct on 01752 827030 or by emailing [email protected]