What does the government’s advice to “stay at home” mean for those parents who do not live with their children? Understandably, many parents whose children are the subject of a Child Arrangements Order made by the Family Court are very concerned about their ability to meet the terms of these Court Orders safely in the new and very challenging circumstances that the country finds itself in.
The reality is that this country is in the middle of a public health crisis on an unprecedented scale. The “stay at home rules” issued by the government on 23 March 2020 make the general position clear – it is no longer allowed for a person (including a child) to be outside their home for any purposes other than essential shopping, daily exercise, medical need or attending essential work (which you cannot do at home).
Government guidance issued alongside the “stay at home rules” clarify that:
“where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents homes”.
This guidance establishes an exception to the mandatory “stay at home requirement” and makes it quite clear that child arrangements should be maintained, where of course it is appropriate to do so, taking into account the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.
In the event that direct (i.e. face-to-face) contact is simply not possible, arrangements should be made for alternative generous contact such as Facetime or Skype. As soon as it is safe to do so, the arrangements set out in the Court Order (or as previously agreed) should resume immediately.
The best way to try and deal with these difficult times is for the parents, (where they are able), to keep up a clear line of communication with one another so that both sides are aware of any concerns or anxieties that the other may have.
Many parents are naturally very worried about Coronavirus and what that means for the health of them, their children and their extended family. Both parents need to be alive to these concerns and understand and recognise that even if they think it is safe for contact to take place, it may well be entirely reasonable for the other parent to be genuinely concerned about it.
Clearly these are unique times. Parents should understand the need for flexibilityin these challenging circumstances, given that the extreme measures we find ourselves in are temporary and hopefully will be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
For further advice please contact Liz Orman direct on 020 8370 2877 or via e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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