Co-operation, Communication and Compassion: Covid-19 Implications for Child Arrangements

Following the announcement of stricter stay at home (lockdown) rules earlier this week, government guidelines have confirmed that children can continue to move between their parents’ homes.

Cafcass guidelines are also available and can be found in this link: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/covid-19-guidance-for-children-and-families/

The Cafcass guidelines encourage consistency for children and state that if there is a Child Arrangements Order in place, this should be complied with unless to do so would put your child, or others at risk. Continuation of seeing both parents will help a child to maintain a sense of normalcy in these difficult times. It will also reassure the child that the parent they don’t spend as much time with is safe and healthy.

Given the government’s explanation of essential travel, children should continue to see both parents unless there is a genuine, practical reason to depart from this. Please consider any proposals to temporarily amend existing arrangements with a common-sense approach.

Of course, both parents are free to agree a change to their existing arrangements or order in light of the current situation if they both agree it is in the child’s best interest. The guidelines permit movement, but do not dictate it. In this situation, you may choose to increase the amount of indirect contact that your child has with their other parent, whether it be by Skype, Houseparty or whatever apps you prefer using at the moment for video or telephone calls.

Please always use child-focused language when discussing the current pandemic with your children.

Communication between parents is more important than ever; please do inform the other parent if you have any symptoms or may have been exposed.

The courts are still open and hearings are available remotely. If you believe the other parent of your child is using the stay at home rules to prevent contact without good reason, then you may need to resort to court assistance. Please do try, however, to co-parent as reasonably as possible to remove the need to resort to court applications.

Above all, be practical and exercise a common-sense judgement in these uncertain and difficult times. Each family is unique and therefore, you will not find a set of guidelines to fit your unique situation. If after considering all of the guidance you are still unsure, please do feel free to contact us, or another family solicitor, for advice.

By Rachel Elliott, Associate Solicitor