Children of separated parents allowed to move between homes during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 11:50 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:05 25 March 2020
Children of separated parents will be able to move between households during coronavirus restrictions, the government has confirmed, following concerns about the potential significant impact on families.
The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary acknowledged the concerns of some parents with children subject of Child Arrangements Orders made by the Family Court.
In a statement, The Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, said: “Many people are very worried about coronavirus and the health of themselves, their children and their extended family.
“Even if some parents think it is safe for contact to take place, it might be entirely reasonable for the other parent to be genuinely worried about this.”
The ‘Stay at Home Rules’ prohibit people from being outside for any purpose other than essential shopping, daily exercise, medical need or attending essential work.
Government guidance issued alongside rules deals specifically with child contact arrangements and states: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
The decision to move between parental homes should be made following a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s health, risk of infection and presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household.
Parental responsibility for a child who is the subject of a Child Arrangements Order made by the Family Court rests with the child’s parents.
If the actions of a parent are questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the court is likely to consider if each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice.
Sir Andrew McFarlane said the key message should be that, where restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements.
He added: “The country is in the middle of a Public Health crisis on an unprecedented scale. The expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time.”
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