Earlier this week, the government announced a number of new measures in response to the continuing COVID-19 crisis. This has left many families who co-parent children wondering whether contact arrangements should continue during these restrictions.
The official answer is…if possible. In newly issued guidance, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the President of the Family Division of the High Court, notes that:
“The country is in the middle of a Public Health crisis on an unprecedented scale. The expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time.”
Parents must, of course, follow the ‘Stay At Home’ rules issued by the government on 23 March, but other guidance issued on the same date states that:
“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
As Sir Andrew notes:
“This establishes an exception to the mandatory ‘stay at home’ requirement; it does not, however, mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.”
He advises clear communication and cooperation between parents in such circumstances:
“More generally, the best way to deal with these difficult times will be for parents to communicate with one another about their worries, and what they think would be a good, practical solution. Many people are very worried about Coronavirus and the health of themselves, their children and their extended family. Even if some parents think it is safe for contact to take place, it might be entirely reasonable for the other parent to be genuinely worried about this.”
Naturally, anyone in either home starts to experience symptoms, that household should self-isolate and follow official NHS advice.
You can read the President’s official guidance in full here.
Our offices are currently closed but we remain open for business. If you have any concerns regarding contact with your children, please call Client Manager Helen Charlton on 01661 824 582, or Paralegal Jenny McKinney on 01661 303 181.