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Coronavirus advice on child arrangements from CAFCASS and the President of the Family Division

On 24 March, the government published full guidance on staying at home and away from others, including advice for separated parents who do not live in the same household and have children under 18. 

CAFCASS, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, which represents children in family court cases in England recommends parents to maintain the usual routine for children, communicate with your co – parent and make up missed time arising from the restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, parents need to be extra vigilant about protecting children from discussions about any family dispute or court case, as this can harm children emotionally if it causes confusion or insecurity. 

The President of the Family Division has also issued guidance to help lawyers advise parents through this unprecedented crisis.  

The expectation for parents is that they should care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding child arrangements.  Parents should abide by the Government rules on staying at home and further guidance issued alongside this, which deals specifically with child arrangements which states:  

“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ home.”  

However the decision whether to move a child between parental homes is for the parents to make“after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.” 

Parents are encouraged to:

  • communicate with one another;
  • find a practical solution; or
  • agree any variation to a court order where possible and record this in an email, note or text message.
What happens if one parent does not agree to any changes or variations to a family court order or a long-standing agreement?  

Parents will be expected to act sensibly in light of the most up to date Government advice at the time of their decision to vary/change contact arrangements. If there is a change to contact, and one parent does not get to spend time with the child(ren) the courts will expect alternative arrangements to be made i.e. remotely by face time, video calls or telephone.  

Please be aware the actions of the parent who has restricted contact without the other parent’s agreement will be considered by the court in all the circumstances to consider if they acted reasonably.    

If you are worried about child arrangements for your children at any time, contact Michelle Uppal and the family team at Miles & Partners Solicitors on 020 7426 0400 or email mu@milesandpartners; and 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.