I have had several enquiries regarding contact since the lockdown guidance was introduced.
Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove, caused confusion among families when England announced its lockdown. When he appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain, he said children were to remain in the household they were currently in. But minutes later, on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove said children under the age of 18 could move between households.
In my blog of 26th March 2020, I clarified the position regarding current Court Orders and child arrangements during the lockdown. I also explained the further clarification which was provided by the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane.
It was reported this week that a senior judge said; separated couples exploiting the Covid-19 lockdown to stop an ex-partner from seeing their child could face Court action.
Sir Andrew McFarlane says, children should continue to visit parents they do not live with, as long as both households are healthy. Sir Andrew added that those ignoring child Court Orders could end up facing legal action.
He further warned that "If the parents are acting in a cynical and opportunistic manner, then that's wrong, and the Courts will regard it as wrong."
I appreciate that the guidance is permissive, stating that children 'can' move between homes and for some parents, trust and communication have broken down, making conversations over child arrangements seem impossible. However, I would encourage that Court Orders should be adhered to, where safe to do so.
Sir Andrew believes that the guidance is adequate. He says that a child's safety with regard to the virus is a matter for parental judgement, and the Courts would not take that away. He is urging families in conflict to focus on children's welfare, and to make sure they are in touch with both of their parents.
If you are found to be in breach of an Order or you are deliberately using this pandemic as a tool to control contact, please be mindful that Judges will be extremely robust.
You can be faced with punishments such as;-
- a fine;
- costs of the application;
- Community work (there is a great need at this time for voluntary work).
If you are experiencing ongoing issues, help from a mediator and a solicitor is still available to you remotely. All of our family lawyers are members of Resolution and will be happy to assist you with any Family Law issues.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.