- April 5, 2020
- By Laura Christodoulou
- 0 comments
Can I vary my Child Arrangements Order given the COVID-19 UK lockdown?
Daily life has certainly changed drastically since the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic caused a UK lockdown from midnight on Monday 23 March 2020. Many parents with children the subject of Child Arrangements Orders (CAO) imposed by the Family Courts may be worried on how to safely comply with their CAO and whether alternative arrangements can be put in place.
The Court and Tribunals Judiciary released a short statement with some general guidance which can be accessed using the following link:
Further on 26 March 2020, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”), came into force which can be located at:
Currently the government guidance and the Regulations have made it clear that you must remain at home unless you are doing essential work, shopping, your daily exercise, or attending to a medical need. A helpful exception at Regulation 6(2)(j) allows for children under 18 to be moved between their parents’ (or person with parental responsibility for the child) homes where their parents do not live in the same household, though this is not obligatory.
In short, the guidance to parents is to be pragmatic, highlight and respect one another’s concerns and communicate clearly to reach sensible and safe solutions. Parents should keep in mind their child’s best interests, and the safety of those of the family (in particularly elderly or high-risk members) and the wider community.
Those with parental responsibility are free to temporarily vary a CAO where this is necessary by agreement and should document this on paper, or in an email or text and set a date for review.
Variations can also be done unilaterally i.e. by one parent, and this is unlikely to have adverse consequences in the Family Court if the measures taken are reasonable, in the spirit of the original order, communicated to the other party and with suitable alternative arrangements in place for the child/ren to maintain regular contact with the other parent.
Fortunately, our modern world offers various alternative modes of communications such as:
- FaceTime, WhatsApp Video Call
- Emails/Texts and Photographs
Where you have safety concerns about use of these modes of communication, it may be useful to set up new accounts from a PC or purchase a pay-as-you-go SIM card to place inside a cheap handset that is only turned on during agreed contact times.
Of course the significance of any changes to a CAO will be based on the individual circumstances of each case and the CAO in place.
It is imperative that you keep up to date with Government Guidance [in particular The Stay at Home Rules, Advice from Public Health England and Wales on how to remain safe and reduce the spread of infection] which could change at any moment and ensure that you are compliant.
If any changes cause conflict between parents, often the best way to resolve these issues are through Skype or Zoom mediation or collaborative law. Rest assured, that our firm continues to work (albeit remotely) and we are available (electronically, by telephone and by video call) to help should you have any questions or require legal advice on any decisions you have made and how they might be interpreted by the Courts later on.
The following websites and other resources may also be of assistance to parents in the present crisis:
- Information on supported contact centres
- A new service from National Family Mediation
- Advice and tips for keeping relationships healthy during self-isolation and social distancing.
- Family rights group
- Family Mediation Council’s Find A Mediator search
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*
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