In light of the uncertainty and confusion caused by the current Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of arrangements for children in separated households is one which needs urgent clarity.
In his address to the nation on Monday 23rd March 2020, the Prime Minister introduced a range of new measures to enforce social distancing, and placed further restrictions on people, households and businesses.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, this morning clarified that it is permissible for children under the age of 18 to move between the households of their separated parents. This is clear, unequivocal guidance from the Government. In the event of any uncertainty or disagreement between separated parents regarding this specific issue, the advice from the Government must be followed.
Where there is a current Child Arrangements Order in force, this must be adhered to. Unless the Government at a later point issues new guidance stating otherwise, it is very much “business as usual”.
At Laurus, we encourage parents to be flexible in this regard. Current child arrangements can be varied by an agreement between the parties. Parties could, for instance, agree to extend the amount of time children spend with each parent, in order to minimise the frequency of transition between households. For example, children could spend two consecutive weeks at each home, rather than exchange on a weekly basis.
The parties should place an emphasis on the children’s best interests when coming to an agreement. As always, the children’s welfare is paramount, and they should maintain a healthy relationship with both parents during this time.
Parents could also consider implementing alternative arrangements, given the exceptional current circumstances. For example, arranging indirect contact with children through FaceTime or other forms of video calling, rather than risk the possibility of spreading the virus between households.
While we would encourage all separated parents to be flexible at this time, it should be stressed that any Child Arrangements Order should be followed if an agreement between the parties cannot be reached.
Now more than ever, parents need to work together reach compromise and support the best interests of their children.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us our Family law team on 020 3146 6300.
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