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The Government has confirmed that children of parents who are separated are able to move between households during the Coronavirus lockdown. This is an exception to the mandatory Stay at Home Rules. This may ease the worries that parents have when their children are the subject of a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) and fear that they will be in breach of a court order. Parents will also be conscious of keeping their family safe and healthy during these difficult times. Fortunately, the Courts and Judiciary have issued some advice to assist concerned families.
Child Arrangement Orders – can these be varied?
The Courts and Judiciary have issued advice following the Stay at Home Rules announced by the Government on the 23 of March. The courts key message is that where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.
Parents are able to make temporary variations by agreement to any existing arrangements with children, and should record this agreement in an email, note or text message. If one parent does not agree to vary the arrangements the advice states that you can vary the arrangement if it is safe and reasonable to do so. The Court will look to see whether the parents have acted sensibly after the event in light of the official advice.
Advice from the Court and Judiciary
The full advice is given below:
What if one parent is refusing contact because of the lockdown?
A parent should not feel pressurised by the other if they think that they will be going against government guidance. Children and parents should not be placed with anyone whom they come into contact with at risk of infection. Likewise, the lockdown should not be used as a reason to prevent contact when it is reasonable and safe to do so.
There may be incidents where sadly it is not possible to move children between households due to the higher risk of contamination with parents or household members who may be shielding if they fall into vulnerable categories. Parents should be facilitating contact remotely by video conferencing or telephone.
If you are concerned that your child has an existing health condition, you are pregnant or someone in your household is vulnerable to the impact of the virus then you should follow the Public Health England medical advice.
Court and Judiciary guidance
Contact centres are suspending offering face to face contact but continue offering their services using technology where this is possible.
Cafcass are now working remotely and have issued some useful guidance for those who may have a Cafcass officer working on their case.