We are seeing an increasing amount of queries from separated families about a parent’s legal obligations relating to a child or children’s contact with the other parent. Equally, contact arrangements may be in place for grandparents, siblings and other family members.
If you have an arrangement in place then, as far as possible, that arrangement should be followed. Continuity will be in the best interests of the children. That, of course, needs to be balanced against current Government guidelines, and health considerations for the families involved.
If contact cannot take place, then you should think about the following:
- Regular Skype or FaceTime calls to take place at the same time as scheduled contact.
- Plan ahead now, where possible, to work out care arrangements for school closures – can holiday contact arrangements operate instead?
- If one parent has to self-isolate, what alternative arrangements can be put in place?
- If contact takes place at a contact centre, get in touch with them to see what the current guidelines are.
There may also be parents currently abroad with their children who are unable to return due to current travel restrictions. Whilst it is hoped no one would take advantage of these restrictions, the Courts are still open and if emergency orders are required, there are capabilities to manage this.
Any action taken for failure to comply with Court orders will no doubt rely on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Speak to a solicitor if you are unsure of your obligations, or if arrangements need to be made where direct communications with the other parent are not possible.
These are uncertain times and it is hoped that all can take a sensible approach in keeping communications open between children and their parents, not least as it is in the children’s best interests.
If you have any questions about how COVID-19 might impact your particular situation, please contact a member of our specialist Family Law team.