25th March 2020

Further update on children subject to child arrangement orders

The President of the Family Division has issued further guidance for the parents of children who are subject to child arrangements orders during the current Coronavirus pandemic. The key message is that ‘where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.’

The other key points are as follows:-

  • Parents must act sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their children. They are encouraged to communicate with each other about their worries, and come up with a practical solution.
  • Parents must abide by the Public Health England & Wales ‘Stay at Home’ Rules, but there is a specific exception to allow parents who do not live in the same household to move children under 18 between their parents’ homes.
  • The decision whether to move a child between parents’ homes is for the child’s parents to make after assessment of the circumstances, including health, risk of infection, and the presence of vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.
  • Where parents agree to variations of the arrangements set out in a Child Arrangements Order they are free to do so. This should be recorded in writing such as an email, note or text message, where possible.
  • Where parents do not agree to variations of a Child Arrangements Order and one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the Order would be against the current PHE/PHW advice, that parent can exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe.
  • If a child does not get to spend time with a parent due to a variation of arrangements, the Court expects alternative ways to maintain regular contact to be made such as; Face-Time, WhatsApp Face-Time, Skype, Zoom, Video-call or telephone.
  • The Court will look at whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in light of official advice if one parent brings into question the actions of another in the Family Court.

For the full guidance see here.