We are committed to supporting our clients through the legal issues that the Covid 19 pandemic presents. One issue is the arrangements for children of separated parents.
The Government has issued clear guidance that one of the exceptions to moving between households arises where to do so is necessary to permit children to visit both parents. This is a reflection of the well understood importance of children maintaining strong relationships with both parents and the (rebuttable) presumption within the Children Act 1989 that involvement by both parents in the upbringing of a child is in the child’s best interests.
However, the judge in charge of the family court has issued interesting additional guidance as have CAFCASS (the court welfare service). The judges guidance is that notwithstanding court orders, it is the parents of the child who have parental responsibility – not the courts and that:-
(1) parents need to communicate their worries and concerns and try to solve problems together;
(2) parents acting together can temporarily agree to vary the operation of child arrangements;
(3) where parents cannot agree and one parent alters the arrangement unilaterally, in dealing with enforcement, the court will consider “whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly” and will consider whether alternative arrangements have been considered such as Facetime.
In determining whether a Child Arrangement Order should be enforced (and the family courts remain open “remotely”), the court must be satisfied that the defaulting parent has, beyond all reasonable doubt and, “without reasonable excuse” failed to comply.
The courts guidance suggests that the judiciary will adopt a pragmatic view.
We remain open to provide tailor made advice and representation, please do not hesitate to call us on 01323 720142.