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COVID-19 – Courts are making interim contact orders

In my blog of 16th April I reported on the statistics issued that day by Shared Parenting Scotland which showed that 61% of separated parents had experienced reduced time or no contact at all with their children since the start of lockdown.  At that date the extent to which new actions sent to the court seeking contact with a child where contact was being refused would be treated within the remit of “urgent and necessary” civil business still wasn’t clear.

I am pleased to report that shortly following writing that blog we were able to successfully have a Writ for contact warranted by the court and a Child Welfare Hearing took place in that case this morning remotely, by telephone conference call.  In that case, involving an 18 month old child, the parents had separated right at the start of lockdown.  The mother had put forward COVID-19 reasons for denying the father any direct contact whatsoever with his daughter.  She had a vulnerable relative living in the same household as her.  However my client, the father, was able to demonstrate that he had gone above and beyond in ensuring that there was no risk of the virus being transmitted back to the mother’s household if contact were to take place.  He had self-isolated for a period of 14 days despite not displaying any symptoms.  Following that he had not left his house to exercise, had ordered all food to be delivered or collected, had come into no contact with any other person whatsoever.  He religiously followed a very strict regime of sanitizing and wiping down any surfaces and avoiding contact with others.

The Sheriff was satisfied that contact should take place between the father and his daughter.  The Sheriff was convinced that the father had taken all reasonable precautions and was treating the COVID-19 virus seriously.  She made a contact order.

This may come as a relief and/or a reassurance to other parents who may be in the same position.  As I said in my blog of 16th April, there will be some instances where contact is being refused due to quite reasonable concerns. A colleague’s client justifiably refused contact when evidence that the other parent was blatantly flouting the lockdown requirements came to light. Contact was reinstated once the other parent had self-isolated for the requisite period. There will be other instances where contact is being refused possibly due to a lack of ability of the parents to effectively communicate with one another and to allay any fears and anxieties and agree the safety measures to be taken in each household.  I would always encourage parents, in that scenario, to enlist the help of a trained CALM mediator to help facilitate the discussions.

As we have seen today in a case where contact is being refused then the courts have now shown that they are prepared to accept such actions as urgent and to step in and make orders where that is necessary and in the best interests of the child to do so.

Our specialist Family Law Team are fully up to date with the situation and aware of guidance from the Scottish Court 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 disruptions 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.

We have a team of experienced mediators who are all CALM accredited who could help you through these unprecedented times no matter where you live in Scotland.

If you would like to discuss this with Denise please give her a call on 0141 370 8130 or dlaverty@gilsongray.co.uk

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.

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