Child arrangements during COVID-19
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Our experienced and expert family solicitors are here to help guide you through a wide range of family law issues. We answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding child arrangements between separated/divorced parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Can I still see my child if I am the non-resident parent?
There has been a lot of confusion over this due to the conflicting comments made by Michael Gove.
To clarify, the latest government guidance is to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or work (in the event you are unable to work from home). The full guidance can be found here.
The guidance specifically states that ‘where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.’ Children should therefore be able to spend time with both of their parents.
If you are the non-resident parent, you should still be able to see your child in accordance with any informal child arrangements agreement or the terms of an existing child arrangements order.
If you are concerned about moving a child between homes as a result of your child’s health, the risk of infection or if vulnerable individuals live in the household of either parent, you must communicate with your co-parent.
You may have to come up with an alternative solution for your family in order to protect everyone’s health and safety.
What should I do if my child, or one of my family members, has to self-isolate?
If your child, or anyone else in your household, has a recent onset of the symptoms of COVID-19, you will be required to self-isolate in accordance with the government’s guidance which can be found here.
In this instance, your child should not be transferred between households. It is important that you immediately contact your co-parent to explain the situation.
If your child is in a regular routine of spending time with your co-parent, any change to this could cause your child some distress.
It is therefore important that children maintain regular contact with their parents, even if this has to be remotely. Parents should embrace technology such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or other video facilities and where that it not possible, ensure there is contact by telephone.
What if my child is in the “at risk” category?
If your child has an underlying health condition or other vulnerability, they may be considered a ‘vulnerable person’ and could be required to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks. This decision must be made on an individual basis will advice from an appropriate health care professional.
It is important that you immediately contact your co-parent to explain the situation and plan how you can support contact remotely as detailed above.
Is child maintenance still payable if the paying parent’s salary has been reduced due to the effects of Covid-19?
Child maintenance will still be payable by the non-resident parent. If you have a private ‘family based arrangement’ then make sure you speak to the other as soon as possible if you are struggling financially to pay the agreed amount of child maintenance. You may be able to agree a temporary reduction in your child maintenance to reflect any reduction to your salary.
If you are paying child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) then you must tell the CMS if the paying parent’s income changes by 25% or more. This will include those who have recently been made redundant or are now unemployed. Make sure you are able to produce documentary evidence, such as your employers’ details or payslips, to support this.
Are mediation services still available?
Yes. Mediation is a service where an independent third party helps to facilitate an agreement between parents about care arrangements for their child or children.
Due to the government’s ‘Stay at Home Rules’, traditional face to face mediation appointments cannot go ahead. However, mediators are still able to provide services to parents by embracing technology. Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and other mediation sessions can take place by telephone or a number of video conferencing facilities.
Can I still apply to the court for a child arrangements order?
The Family Courts are still operating and processing new applications, including applications for child arrangements orders. Involving the court should always be a last resort and it is vitally important that you seek legal advice from a specialised family lawyer prior to making any application.
Will my Family Court hearing regarding my child still go ahead?
The President of the Family Court has published guidance confirming that they will now deal with private children law hearings remotely. A ‘remote hearing’ means you will not need to physically attend the court building but will attend by a telephone or video conferencing facility. The responsibility for arranging this often falls to the Applicant in the proceedings. See our separate advice guide on ‘Remote Hearings’ for more information.
How is the involvement of CAFCSS in cases regarding children currently affected?
CAFCASS have now closed their offices to the public and the majority of their staff are working remotely. If you are due to have an interview with CAFCASS or your child is due to attend a direct work session, this will be conducted using an alternate method such as a telephone or video conference. You will be contacted directly by your nominated Family Court Advisor.
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We know that every family is unique which is why we carefully tailor our advice to suit individual families’ needs and strive to secure the best outcome for you.
To speak to a member of our family law team, call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us online here and we will call you back.
For anyone needing help with family issues I could not recommend Slater and Gordon highly enough. I always had the feeling I had the best looking after my interests and they certainly didn't disappoint. C I (family and personal matters case)
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