Child access during the coronavirus crisis

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Family lawyer, Cathy O’Grady, looks at the latest news on child access as lockdown eases.

We specialise in child access issues throughout Devon and Somerset. Call our legal helpline for free initial guidance and details of Legal Aid availability on 0808 139 1606

One of the many ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has impacted on our daily lives is in relation to childcare arrangements for separated parents.

The crisis has prevented some parents meeting their legal obligations. Others have been unable to see their children because of travel restrictions or the need to isolate or shield.

Here is a summary of the latest position regarding child access:

  • The government allows children under 18 to move between their parents’ homes. However, this does not mean that children should be moved;
  • The best interests of the child always comes first. Child access arrangements contained in a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) can be varied if necessary;
  • If a CAO is varied then keep a record of the agreement;
  • Parents still have parental responsibility over their child;
  • Parents should try to maintain a child’s routine; and
  • Parents should make full use of alternative child contact methods, such as video.

If a parent decides to vary a CAO they will need to show that they have acted reasonably and encouraged alternative contact methods.

You can challenge a variation of a CAO if you did not agree to it and you think the decision was not reasonable and not in your child’s best interests.

However, before making an application to the court during this crisis, parents are encouraged to use mediation.

If a parent experiences symptoms of Covid-19 then they should stay in isolation for seven days from the start of their symptoms. Those in the same household should self-isolate for 14 days. It may therefore be necessary for a child to self-isolate with one parent and not return to a symptomatic household.

The government is implementing gradual changes to its guidance and we will provide another update on the legal position affecting child access shortly.

If you wish to discuss arrangements for child access in Devon or Somerset or require details of Legal Aid for child access then please call our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or email [email protected]