Rachel Horman discusses the guidance around child contact arrangements during the Covid 19 crisis.
The government has confirmed that travelling between separated parents for the purposes of facilitating contact handover is permissible under the lock down rules. They stated “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
This is clear, but what about if a parent believes that continuing the contact would put themselves, the child or someone they live with at risk?
We now have guidance from the The President of the Family division on the movement of children under 18 between separated parents it and makes it clear that contact orders may be broken if it safeguards the health of the child or vulnerable adult in the household. The guidance can be accessed
Cafcass have also issued guidance here https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/covid-19-guidance-for-children-and-families/ which reiterates the president’s guidelines and states that if direct contact puts the child or other adult at risk then the parents may stop it but should consider other methods of contact e.g. Skype and also consider offering additional contact once the restrictions are lifted
Each case is different and it is important that the reasons for changing contact are set out to demonstrate that the action was not unreasonable in the event of enforcement proceedings. If you can get advice from a specialist lawyer before you do so
Changing contact arrangements may put domestic abuse victims at increased risk from their perpetrators and this which needs to be considered, risk assessed and if necessary protective measures beforehand if possible. It is particularly important that these victims obtain urgent expert advice.