At the start of lockdown, the Government guidance was clear – we all had to ‘stay at home’, ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now updated this message to ‘stay alert’, ‘control the virus’ and ‘save lives’.
But what does this mean in the context of child arrangements orders? Can you still have contact with your children and grandchildren? What should you do if the other parent thinks you should be seeing the children but you think this is too risky for you and/or them?
COVID-19 and child arrangements orders – updated advice
Following on from the advice we provided at the start of the lockdown, if you have a child arrangements order and are concerned that you may not be in a position to comply with it, either by attending for contact or making the child available to spend time with the other parent, then it is important to communicate this as soon as possible, so that an alternative means can be found for that parent and child to stay in touch with each other, if not face-to-face, in some other way.
It may be that you are concerned that the other parent is obdurate and standing in the way of contact or, alternatively, using the coronavirus as an excuse not to attend when they would otherwise have done so. If that is the case and there is no legitimate reason why the order has not been complied with, then you may need to apply to the Courts, who are open for business and will take applications for enforcement seriously.
The Courts are likely to take a very dim view of any parents who use COVID-19 as an excuse not to comply with existing child arrangements orders without good cause, knowing that the country is in the middle of a national emergency through the pandemic.
Each case will turn on its own facts and it is therefore important that you take your own independent legal advice, should you find yourself in that situation, as what may be a legitimate reason in one case could well be just an excuse in another. An experienced family lawyer will know the difference and be able to advise you of the approach the Court is likely to take.
How Nelsons can help
At Nelsons, we have a team of expert family law solicitors in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham who are available to help you navigate your way through the complexities of this. Please contact Melanie or another member of the team if you need help, advice or assistance on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.
With the lockdown expected to extend throughout the summer, you should take advice sooner rather than later, if you need to.