Sharing custody during the Coronavirus outbreak – Who gets the children? | Howells Solicitors

Sharing custody during the Coronavirus outbreak – Who gets the children?

The Government has announced new rules which restricts when  people can leave their homes and prohibits meeting in groups of more than two people. This has resulted in schools across the UK closing. This is to ensure that social distancing measures are enforced, and the spread of the Coronavirus is kept to a minimum.

The rules are simple – stay in your home unless absolutely necessary.

However the situation is complicated if you are a separated parent and share the care of your children with your former partner. What does this mean for the children of parents who are co-parenting or sharing the care of their children?

As the Government’s new rules dictate that family members should not travel between households, there has been some confusion and concern about allowing a child to visit multiple households.

Whilst it may feel conflicting, then Government has clarified over the last few days that, unless there are any medical issues with the child, the usual arrangements for  children to spend time with each parent should continue.

The government guidance says: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”

If you have a Child Arrangement Order  that has been made by the court you should comply with the terms of that order.  If a parent or carer doesn’t do so they will be in breach of the court order and enforcement penalties could arise

If the child or parent with care at the time shows signs of the Coronavirus the government’s 14 day self-isolation requirement should be followed but the other parent should be informed If a parent is unable to care for the child due to illness they should pass their responsibilities onto the other parent.

Sir Andrew Macfarlane, president of the Family Division of the High Court, has clarified that, while children could be moved between parents’ homes, it did not mean all children must keep travelling for contact visits.

He says: “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.

“If one parent is worried that moving their child would be going against public health advice, they may “exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe”, even if the other parent does not agree, the guidance says.

Where this is the case, family courts will expect parents to facilitate contact by video chat or phone”

This means that if a parent has genuine concerns regarding the movement of their child due to safety, a parent may ask the other parent to revise their contact agreement for the benefit of the child. However the parent who is looking after the child should make every effort to ensure contact is made with the otherparent via telephone and/or social  media.

We would strongly suggest in this situation that parents discuss their options mutually and come to a shared agreement.

Any parent who requires advice regarding their children can arrange an appointment with me on the telephone. I offer a free 30 minute consultation for new clients and I have many years’ experience of dealing with complex cases involving children.

You can make a telephone appointment by contacting us via email on [email protected] enquiries or by calling:

Sheffield0114 249 66 66

Barnsley0122 680 51 90

Rotherham0170 936 40 00

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