CORONAVIRUS: THE IMPACT ON CONTACT
Boris Johnson’s divorce lawyer has recently been consulted on a dispute where one parent is not letting her two children see their father for the weekend.
A mother approached Neil Russell, saying that her children didn’t want to visit their father due to concerns they could be stuck away from their usual home for weeks if they have to self-isolate.
Undoubtedly, this is a worrying time for everyone. For separated parents, alteration and variations to existing contact arrangements are likely to be necessary due to school closures and restrictions on foreign travel. We discuss the impact, and possible solutions below.
If a parent wishes to travel abroad with a child, they require the other parent’s consent. If such consent is not given then the issue would have to be decided by a court. The court would then have to consider whether or not consent was being withheld unreasonably.
We approach the Easter Holiday period when many families will have made plans to travel abroad. In light of recent announcements, it is clear that none of us are going anywhere for the time being. If your planned holiday abroad isn’t going to go ahead, could alternative arrangements be made? This could be rearranging the contact to take place later on in the year. If the other parent lives abroad then telephone calls, Skype and email could be used as alternatives, albeit we recognise that they are not a sufficient replacement for direct contact taking place.
Whether you have an informal agreement setting out contact arrangements or whether they are set out in a court order, the current climate will result in a degree of uncertainty for separated parents. Both parents will need to be prepared to adopt a degree of flexibility and it goes without saying that a child’s health should take priority despite the fact that may mean a temporary reduction or variation in face to face contact.
If there is a court order in place with which you cannot comply, you should immediately notify the other parent, explaining the reasons. In these circumstances we would suggest that alternative proposals should be put forward for contact, taking into account the government guidance. If contact is continuing to take place as normal, parents will have to be prepared to review matters in the event that the government orders a complete lockdown.
As things currently stand, Michael Gove announced this morning that in circumstances where parents are separated and, living in different homes, children under the age of 18 can be moved from one household to the other. We would advise that where handovers are taking place, they should be done in a manner that limits contact with other individuals as much as possible, while complying with social distancing rules.
If a member of a household is symptomatic, the advice from the government remains clear that the individual should isolate themselves for a period of 7 days. Any other members in that household must isolate for a period of 14 days, to allow for any symptoms to develop. In these circumstances, it is important that alternative contact methods such as Skype and email are facilitated.
Our specialist family Law team are fully up to date with the situation and aware of guidance from the Scottish Courts Service and the measures being put in place to deal with such issues as and when they arise. We have put in place measures to ensure there is no disruption to our service during this difficult time. Whilst working remotely, all members of our team are fully operational, working as normal and contactable by all the usual methods.
If you like to discuss this with Sarah please give her a call on 0141 530 2034 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.