Custody and Contact child law

Child Contact Arrangements During COVID

Re-visiting the rules

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Child Contact Arrangements During COVID

16th March 2021

News : Divorce & Family

It’s been a year now since restrictions came in and, though of course initially there was a huge amount of uncertainty about how Covid would affect children living in separated parent’s households, matters have to a great extent settled.

However, with kids back at school, and quite possibly the chances of Covid infection rising for parents over the next few weeks (despite all measures in place) I thought it was worth revisiting the rules….. 

Can my child go between households to see their other parent?

Yes.  Children move between households if they are under 18 years old and need to move between separated parents, provided this is done safely and subject to any high-risk measures for anyone in the vulnerable category.   The Court is asking parents to take a common-sense approach and work together during these unprecedented times. The original guidance from the President of the Family Court issued at the time of the initial lockdown remains valid – read that guidance here.

What if my child or I have to self-isolate/quarantine?

The same exemption does not apply in this scenario. If a parent or child has tested positive for Covid 19, or has come into close contact with someone with Covid 19, they are required to self-isolate. Given the testing regime in secondary schools and in primary schools, there is a significant chance of this happening. 

The same applies when travelling back to the UK from abroad. The Regulation (Regulation 2 of the Health Protection Coronavirus Regulations 2020) does NOT list visiting a parent whom a child does not usually live with as a reason why a person self-isolating may leave their house, the requirement to self isolate takes precedence over normal contact arrangements.

Can my child move between households if they, or I, or their other parent are in the vulnerable/high-risk category?

If a parent or child is medically considered high-risk then the government advice is for them to self-isolate.  The Court has made it clear that the parents need to take a sensible approach to this and if one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the arrangements would put them or the child at risk, then the parents should look to agree on a variation to the arrangements, that they consider being safe for everyone.

Where movement between households is not possible due to self-isolation, it is clear that there is an expectation from the Court that parents should make alternative arrangements, such as FaceTime, WhatsApp Face Time, Skype, Zoom, etc….

That doesn’t mean to say that a parent can use this current situation to their advantage without recourse from the Courts.  The Court have also made it clear that if a parent tries to use the COVID-19 Pandemic and the government’s advice as a ‘weapon’ to stop contact or alienate a parent, this will be dealt with robustly by the Court.

Key Message from the Court – where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.

Where can I get more guidance?

There is a wealth of further guidance available on this topic from government sources including this helpful document – the House of Commons Briefing Paper – “Coronavirus: Separated Families and Contact with Children in Care FAQ’s”.

As well as from the Child and Family Court Advice and Support Service (Cafcass).

If you have any further questions arising from these points or for any other queries relating to family matters call us now or contact us using our online form and we will help you through this difficult time.

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