Child contact arrangements during the coronavirus lockdown

With a national lockdown in force across England from 5 November to 2 December, we explain the rules around sharing custody and how parents can minimise the impact of lockdown for their children.

With a national lockdown in force across England from 5 November to 2 December, the Government has confirmed that children are still able to move between homes if their parents are separated.

Many parents who share custody of their children may still be wondering what the new restrictions mean for them. We look at how custody arrangements could be impacted by the coronavirus lockdown and what steps parents can take to minimise the impact for their children.

Transferring children between parents

Since coronavirus restrictions first came into force earlier this year, the primary concern that our Family Law Solicitors have found is whether the transfer of children from one parent to the other is able to take place.

The Government previously confirmed that that:

  • Any existing Court Order needs to be adhered to, including Child Arrangement Orders

  • Usual patterns of contact can continue wherever possible including collecting and delivering children

  • The distance of travel between households doesn't have any bearing on this

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The exception to this is if one household has to go into self-isolation due to someone displaying symptoms, in which case:

  • This would prevent the transfer of the child from one household to the other

  • Alternative arrangements to maintain child contact remotely are encouraged, such as phone calls and video calls

Following the announcement of a new lockdown from 5 November to 2 December 2020, it has been confirmed that children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.

Can one parent halt contact with the other?

There have been reports of parents simply halting contact with their other parent due to concerns that the child would not be kept safe or kept away from others during the lockdown.

If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place, then the parent who is being denied contact is entitled to make an application to the Court to enforce the Order. However, due to reduced capacity in the Courts throughout the restrictions, it is possible that some Family Courts could be experiencing delays.

Courts are prioritising cases involving domestic violence and dealing with these as a matter of urgency, so they will not be subjected to delays. The Family Courts are holding hearings by telephone or video conference wherever possible.

The Courts have been encouraging parents to work closely with Solicitors to find a solution that works for everyone, without the need to attend Court. If you have any concerns about your Child Contact Arrangement or the safety of your child during lockdown, seek independent legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor.