Need Guidance on Children’s Matters during Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Head of Family Law in our Holborn office, has answered some frequently asked questions for parents who have already separated and seek advice on how the current outbreak will affect their ongoing arrangements.
What applications can the courts deal with currently?
The courts can currently only deal with emergency applications, so you will need to do all you can to work out arrangements between yourselves. If you already have a Child Arrangements Order, or residence/contact order then strictly speaking you should comply with this. However, if you have safety concerns, you could suggest that the contact takes place differently. This could be by Skype or Facetime.
It is important that contact continues to take place if at all possible and regular video calling could assist with this.
The Court will continue to deal with emergency applications that affect the safety of your children. These applications are called Prohibited Steps Orders. If one parent threatens to take your child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales, then you can make an urgent application to the court to prevent this.
We can assist you with these applications should you need further advice.
What should I do if I want to change the arrangements in a court order?
In these unprecedented times you will need to be reasonable and agree different arrangements in the best interests of the children.
If you agree a different temporary arrangement it is important for the agreement to be confirmed either in writing, this can be via:
- Text Message
- WhatsApp message
The court will not get involved in the specific arrangements surrounding where your children will live and how often they are to see the other parent, unless there is a dispute. This usually involves the appointment of a court officer called a CAFCASS officer investigating the arrangements and making a recommendation to the court. As you will appreciate, these decisions cannot be made quickly and given this difficult time, there will be inevitable delays.
What if I already have an application before the courts?
If you already have an application for a child arrangements order before the court, the courts are currently working to change the hearings into telephone hearings. This is because the courts, understandably, do not want parties to attend court.
If you have a solicitor representing you, they should keep you up to date with any arrangements the court needs you to make in line with their policies.
Ultimately, you and the child’s other parent will need to be reasonable and work together to make appropriate arrangements for your children. If you feel you cannot come to an agreement without some assistance, please do not hesitate to contact one of our family law solicitors for advice.
Looking for more information on this topic? Click here to read our FAQ on Divorce.
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