COVID-19 | Child arrangements for separated parents during coronavirus

COVID-19 | Child arrangements for separated parents during coronavirus

Parenting through a separation is difficult to navigate as it is without the added complication of social distancing and self-isolation.

In this webinar, we will look at how separated parents can deal with child arrangements to ensure that disruption and emotional stress is kept to a minimum for everyone involved, including alternative ways of keeping in touch to maintain relationships and establish a routine. We will also discuss how the courts may deal with cases involving children during this challenging period and the financial implications of COVID-19 on court orders.

Further information on how to manage the impact of coronavirus can also be found on our coronavirus resource hub and you can view past webinars at SHMA®ON DEMAND.

Please do let us know of future topics that you are interested in, or for more information about our webinars please contact us.

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Webinar transcript

(Please note this is auto-generated and un-edited)

Hi, I'm Helen Brown's Legal Director in the family team here at Shakespeare Martineau. Welcome to today's webinar on child Arrangements orders for separated parents during the covid-19 pandemic you will see on the screen that you are able to ask questions. So please do ask questions along the way and I will answer as many as I can and also share a summary of our questions with everyone after the webinar in this seminar.
I'm going to look at how separate today parents can deal with their existing child Arrangements orders how the court May view any variations of these order and how the court will deal with existing Court hearings in these difficult times without a doubt. These uncertain times can cause stress for families.
It may be that you're trying to home school your children or trying to explain to teenagers why they cannot see their friends or attend their clubs if added to this your Tempting to navigate your way around a court order for your child to see their other parent while ensuring the safety of them and perhaps other vulnerable family members this may cause a tremendous amount of stress on the 23rd of March the government published full guidance on staying at home and away from others.
This stated that we're parents do not live in the same household then children under 18 can be moved between the parents homes this Is understandably caused concern for many parents who had child Arrangements orders in place, but we're concerned about the safety of their children or the vulnerability of others being exposed to a child that was moving from household to household the day after the government announced the staying at home Guidance the president of the Family Division sought to clarify the rules on children moving between parents the president stated that whilst children.
Nev from household to household this does not mean that they must do so he stressed that the decision as to whether a child should move between parental homes is for the child's parents to make after sensible assessment of all of the circumstances.
This means taking into account the Children's Health, especially if they have any underlying health issues the risk of infection the presence of any recognized humble people in one household or any other appropriate risk, the president stressed that it was for the parents to make this decision during these very difficult times and that they should communicate with one another to come to a practical solution. It is far more straightforward. If both parents agree on the solution, if both parents agree that it would be safer for the child to stay in the home in which they reside and have indirect contact to the other.
Rent, for example through FaceTime Zoom or even telephone calls then they can agree to vary the order in that way. If the parents do agree on this change in the arrangements that it is a really good idea just to record this change in writing so that everybody is clear and should this go to court at a later date. The court is aware of why these changes were implemented. It's also a good idea to explain to the children in an age-appropriate way.
Way as to why the arrangements have to change and what will be in place for them to maintain their relationship with the other parent so that they have a degree of certainty and consistency.
But what if parents do not agree The Way Forward what if one parent believes that to move a child from one household to another and comply with the child Arrangements order would put either the child or the other household members at risk, for example, if a parent When's or any other member of the household has severe asthma or if the parent is a key worker and if the child spends time in that household, then it could increase the risk of infection. It may be that a parent has to make the decision that it is not safe to continue with the order and allow the child to move from households. Then in this case that parent has got to exercise their parental responsibilities and very the arrangements of the court order to ensure the safety of the child.
Child, it is really important that the parent who is making this decision is doing so because they believe that to continue with the arrangements would be against the government's advice and would expose the child or another household member to risk that parent needs to show that they have acted reasonably and sensibly in light of all the official advice and their specific circumstances.
It is important that there that if Questioned by the family court at a later date about their decision that that parent has valid justification for not complying with the court order if any direct arrangements are changed than other methods of contact her to be put in place so that the child can maintain the relationship with the parents that they do not live with.
So again, this can be indirect Arrangement such as Skype or FaceTime the court would no doubt be critical of a parent who varied the order without putting in place alternative Arrangements, if your court order states that you should see your child in a contact center, then unfortunately, the National Association of children contact centers are closed at the moment, but it is important that other methods of safe in direct contact are set up to maintain contact if one parent unfairly or unreasonably changes the child arrangements or It doesn't make any alternative arrangements for indirect contact resulting in there being no communication between parents and child then it is possible to make an application to the court. The family courts are still accepting applications for child Arrangements orders, and they're dealing with these online. Any court hearing is likely to cut take place by video conference or telephone conference.
It's also important to note that if you have an existing court case, then this can still go ahead although it is likely to be dealt with via remote hearing.
So this will be video conference or telephone hearing if you have any safeguarding concerns about your child in the care of the other parent, then it is important that you make a referral to the local Authority for them to deal with this and it may be that they cannot go out to see the child directly, but I have seen cases where they have sent police officers to check on the child's safety as with any changes in the child's life. It is important that this is communicated with them so that they can understand as far as they are able to the new circumstances. If you are unclear about what to tell your children Kath cast The Children and Family Court advisory and support service have some fabulous information on their website.
Right. In addition. There is some great information for children and young people on the website of the Family Justice Young people's board. This is undoubtedly a difficult time and the more that you can communicate as parents the better. It will be for the children. Thank you for listening to this webinar. I hope you found it useful and relevant in the current circumstances. I will now answer a couple of questions and we'll also send a note of the question and answer.
Along with the recording of the webinar. The first question is what if we can't agree about the arrangements for the children, but we don't want to go to court well in these circumstances you can still attend mediation the national Family Mediation service and other mediators can do remote mediation appointments and it's worth exploring this before any application to court is made.
Another question is that I'm concerned that my partner will think that I'm using this present situation as an excuse to stop direct contact. What do I do if he makes an application to the court? Well, this is very important that if you have assessed the risk to your child and you think that it's a sensible decision to stop the child going to see the other parent.
Then you can exercise your parental responsibility to do this. It's so important that you weigh up the risk to your child and set out your concerns to the other parent clearly another question.
What if both my self and my husband have agreed that it is the best thing for a child to continue to move between households, but my child is concerned and frightened about this well, That case it's very important that both of you as parents speak to the child to explain that you have thought about the risks and that you both agree that for the child to move from household to household doesn't pose a risk. It's worth while explaining to the child in age appropriate language that the government think it's okay for him or her to move to the other parents house. Thank you for all your great questions. I will follow both on all of these.
After the webinar and share them with you for further advice and guidance on the coronavirus, please contact our dedicated resource Hub at shma.co.uk Thank you.

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