The guidance on how contact arrangements should be managed during this confusing time has been mixed, but the key message for parents of separated families is that where possible, contact should continue as before.
If there is a court order in place that sets out when children should move between their parents' houses, this should carry on, unless there are health reasons why this can’t work.
Where contact was being supervised, this is more challenging. Parents can try and agree an alternative person to supervise contact, possibly in an outdoor space if it is safe to do so. If this isn’t possible, parents should encourage contact via FaceTime or Skype on a regular basis.
It is important to remember that communication is key, and parents should try to be flexible and work within the ‘new normal’ that we find ourselves in. If they need some help in doing this, many mediators are still conducting mediation over Skype or FaceTime, which could help in reaching a compromise.
Hilary Lettin, Solicitor
Spectrum Family Law Ltd
Guidance on compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders:
Government guidance issued alongside the Stay at Home Rules on 23rd March deals specifically with child contact arrangements. It says, "Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ home". This establishes an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement; it does not however, mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the parents to make after an assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s health, the risk of infection, and the presence of any vulnerable individuals in the household.