How does the Coronavirus affect Contact rights?Mar 24, 2020
The current situation with the Coronavirus is worrying for us all but how will it affect contact rights?
The ‘lockdown’ will impact the lives of separated families with voluntary agreements for contact and those with the benefit of a Child Arrangements Order. Contact may not be able to take place because the child or one of the family members has to self-isolate or must take measures to protect both families by not allowing the contact to take place.
Whether there is an Order or not, the parents should be encouraged to keep communication lines open, to work with each other to ensure the child’s best interests are at the forefront of any decision making and ensure, where possible, that contact takes place bearing in mind the government guidance which is changing daily and unless such contact poses a risk to the child. Ensure the lines of communication are kept open and arrangements made for contact missed to be made up later.
This virus and its effects are unprecedented, the effect that it is having on communities worldwide is like nothing we have seen before and so it is impossible to know how a Judge, if faced with this scenario, would deal with matters. It is safe to say however, there will be an expectation upon parents to put differences aside and keep lines of communication open and work together to maintain the welfare of the child and, first and foremost, keep them safe. It is unlikely, although we cannot be sure, that a Court would deal harshly with a parent who did not comply with a Child Arrangements Order in these circumstances if it could be shown that to do so would put the child’s health at risk or risk a spread of the disease or increase that risk if contact took place. Each parent should be aware that the Court is likely to be very critical of a parent who uses the virus as an excuse not to allow contact to take place where it is unlikely to significantly increase exposure. It is our view that the Court would exercise the balance of harm test in terms of the risk of emotional harm by cancelling the contact versus the risk of exposure. The level of risk of exposure is likely to be a factor, i.e. if one of the parents is a frontline worker who carries a significantly high risk and with a contact of a parent who is, say, self-isolating.
In any event, all other avenues should be explored so that some contact, in whatever form, can take place so the use of technology is something that should be considered and utilised wherever possible.
You can also see the advice from CAFCASS by clicking their logo below. CAFCASS stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
If you are faced with this situation, you need advice or you have more questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Family team. Despite the Coronavirus, Nash & Co Solicitors are still working, and even though the majority of our lawyers are now working from home, they can still be contacted on their regular phone numbers, or via email. At all times, our client service is of upmost importance to us, as is the safety of our clients and staff.
You can speak to our Family lawyers here:
Eleanor Barber – 01752 827026 or email [email protected]
Anne Shears – 01752 827015 or email [email protected]
Gemma Stevens – 01752 827038 or email [email protected]
Rhianna Greenley – 01752 827039 or email [email protected]