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Once again, the country is facing national lockdown for at least four weeks from 5th November 2020. Like the earlier lockdown in March of this year, it brings the closure of restaurants and bars, leisure facilities and non-essential shops to try and limit the spread of COVID-19. This time, however, schools and universities will remain open.
There are no changes to the guidance provided by the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, Sir Andrew McFarlane, in Spring this year in respect of child contact. Contact with a non-resident parent is an exception to the Stay at Home Rules and therefore contact can continue with children moving between their parents' households in the usual way.
The guidance does not however stipulate that child contact must continue. It is up to parents to assess any health concerns and potential risks due to COVID-19 and work together to decide if it is safe for contact to continue. If a child shows symptoms, has been exposed to COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then contact should not take place to prevent the risk of infection. If the parent with whom the child does not live with shows symptoms, has been exposed to COVID-19, or is self-isolating contact should not take place with that parent.
It is of course inevitable that there may be some disagreements along the way between parents when deciding if contact should take place. Clear communication between parents is encouraged to discuss concerns and collaboratively arrive at practical solutions.
If contact is unable to take place, parents should consider alternatives such as telephone and video calls between the child(ren) and the absent parent and extending contact times when direct face-to-face contact is restored to make up any missed time.
If agreement cannot be reached, and in cases where contact is suspended and stopped entirely, parties may wish to consider attending mediation together to discuss the future arrangements for contact. The last resort may be to make an application to the Court.
Please see the full guidance in respect of child contact from the Courts a Tribunals Judiciary: https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles