ASK THE EXPERTS
Child Arrangements During COVID-19 Lockdown
In a series of blogs we are putting questions to our expert lawyers here at Price Slater Gawne to provide valuable information during these unusual times.
Today, Family Solicitor Carole Nettleton answers a number of questions regarding family relationships and child arrangements during COVID -19 lockdown.
1. Can my children still spend time with their other parent during lockdown?
Yes. Despite initial confusion, the guidance states that for parents who live apart, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes after a sensible discussion, and an assessment that the children’s health is not being put at risk.
You can read more about this in the recent article by Price Slater Gawne solicitor Nicholas Clough who clarifies the guidelines for child arrangements during Covid-19. https://www.psg-law.co.uk/can-i-still-have-contact-with-my-child/
2. Can Mediation for children arrangements be carried out remotely?
Yes, most mediation services are offering mediation sessions remotely via Zoom, Skype or Facetime. So, if your mediation provider is offering this service then mediation will be possible.
Experienced Family Solicitor Nicholas Clough is a trained Mediator who is currently offering mediation sessions via Skype, Facetime or Zoom.
In addition, both Nicholas and Jackie Rawcliffe are collaboratively trained solicitors. They can both offer collaboration sessions via remote means.
Please contact us if you wish to consider remote mediation or collaborative sessions as we can help.
3. Can either myself or my partner change the child arrangement terms set out during lockdown?
It is important for children to see both parents, especially since the lockdown is looking to continue over a period of months rather than weeks.
These are very unusual times so the answer to this question is yes, arrangements can be changed, but this would be subject to discussions and ideally a mutual agreement between both parents.
During these uncertain and unusual times our health, our children’s health and preventing vulnerable groups from being at risk is the most important consideration.
The most senior family judge in England and Wales, Sir Andrew McFarlane has repeated the guidance and made it clear that children should continue to visit parents they do not live with, as long as both households are healthy.
There may be family circumstances where one parent or a child is in a high-risk category, so it may be wise to temporarily change arrangements, or perhaps one household is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 so again a temporary change in arrangements is best for all concerned.
It is anticipated that parents will be able to discuss and agree on any change in arrangements and expect that children will continue to spend time with their other parent.
4. I believe my partner is pretending to self-isolate with the children to prevent me from seeing them – what can I do?
Senior family judge Sir Andrew McFarlane has warned parents not to exploit lockdown.
He further stated that those who ignore child arrangements orders and use lockdown as an excuse to stop children visiting another parent could end up facing Court disapproval and consequences.
He warned in a BBC interview “If the parents are acting in a cynical and opportunistic manner, then that’s wrong; and the Courts will regard it as wrong.”
You can read one of our previous articles which deal directly with this subject. https://www.psg-law.co.uk/arrangements-for-children-during-covid-19-lockdown/
If you think this is happening to you and you have an existing child arrangements order, you may be advised to return matters to Court for further consideration requesting that matters are dealt with urgently.
The family Court is going to be concerned and will be extremely unhappy with a parent who they believe is exploiting the lockdown period. The Court can consider altering arrangements for how often children spend time with a parent, which parent a child lives with and in extreme case commence enforcement proceedings for breaching the order.
Please do remember though that it is not possible to have a face-to-face Court hearing at the present time. Whilst the majority of Courts remain open, some are closed and hearings are being conducted via Skype or Zoom.
If you find yourself in this situation please contact us for advice. We can advise you of the fastest and most effective route to resolve any dispute about child arrangements; if necessary, through a Court process.
At Price Slater Gawne we are able to offer sympathetic and objective advice to ensure that any issues concerning arrangements for children are resolved with the least amount of stress and worry.
We understand that arrangements and issues concerning children can be a very emotional and stressful part of any discussions with your former partner particularly in these unusual times of Covid-19 lockdown.
Should you wish to discuss any matters relating to childcare or access arrangements, please contact one of our experienced Family Solicitors:
If you happen to be based outside of the Manchester area, we can still correspond with you via remote means including email, phone, Skype, Facetime or Zoom.