Family law advice: Should I stop contact arrangements due to Covid-19 (Coronavirus)?

18th March 2020



One question that our family law department have been asked over the past couple of days is whether contact arrangements with the other non-resident parent should be suspended due to Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

Government advice in general may change over the coming days, however we would refer you to this in the first instance. Currently, as of Wednesday 18th March 2020, the advice is:

 

  • If the child or someone in your household displays symptoms of Covid-19, then the advice is that everyone in that household self-isolates for 14 days after the symptoms in the last person began.

 

  • This would of course apply if the non-resident parent needed to self-isolate also.

 

  • If either you, the child, or the non-resident parent has returned from travelling abroad, particularly from a country highly affected by the outbreak, please refer to the current advice provided by the Government.

 

  • Persons aged 70 years or over, who have a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system should follow government social distancing advice.

 

If these situations apply, then of course contact should be suspended in the interests of the child and public health and it would be helpful if you notify the other parent immediately.

If a court order is in place, then in these circumstances the court is likely to take the view that you were acting appropriately in the best interests of the child.

If no symptoms are shown and the above points do not apply, then the current advice is to try to avoid public transport if at all possible, avoid events with large groups of people, and avoid social activities such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinema. This could apply to soft play areas and other child related venues.

You may wish to consider another venue, such as the park, where you can avoid close contact with others but where quality contact which is beneficial for the child can still take place.

If special circumstances are in place, for example that contact should be supervised, please abide by these arrangements. If a designated supervisor is unable to do so because of government advice, then it is possible that an alternative appropriate person could be agreed between those involved. The key is to ensure that contact remains safe.

Those with contact supervised by the local authority may find that due to stretched resources that arrangements may need to change. The child's or children’s social worker should keep you updated in this regard and so please ensure that they have your up to date contact details.

Our main advice is to keep up to date with the advice provided by the Government, but to remember that the court’s position is that contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child unless there is a serious safeguarding reason why this should not take place.

In our experience, the key to navigating contact at any time, including during the current difficulties, is to communicate respectfully and in the best interests of the child.

If you are unsure if you should suspend contact arrangements and if this would put you in breach of the order, please do not hesitate to contact our family department for advice.

 

Accessibility version by Recite Mehttps://covid.reciteme.com/bhplaw_covid_contact/

Leanne Walker Leanne Walker

Trainee Legal Executive

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