As a result of the current social distancing guidelines set out by the UK Government, many parents who share custody of their children are wondering what this means for them. In this article, we explain 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
A 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 has 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
For more information, see gov.uk.
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
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 the reduced capacity in the Courts at this time, there are backlogs which are causing delays.
Some hearings are going ahead remotely, via telephone or video conference. However, many parents could find that they don't get a hearing date until after the current restrictions have been lifted, in which case normal contact could resume anyway. With backlogs expected to take some time to clear after the lockdown has lifted, this could push hearing dates back even further.
During the lockdown, Courts will be prioritising cases with those involving domestic violence being given top priority. These cases will be dealt with by the Courts as a matter of urgency and will not be subjected to the usual delays. It is expected that this could also increase the backlog of less urgent matters going through the Court.
For this reason, the Courts are encouraging parents to work closely with Solicitors during the lockdown 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 the lockdown, it's important that you seek independent legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor.