The current Government ‘Stay at Home Rules’ state that children under 18, who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, can move between households for the purposes of continuing existing arrangements. This provides an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirements.
However, whether a child or children should continue to move between households will be a decision for the parents to make after carefully considering various issues such as the health of the child or children, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household. Parents will also have to balance these considerations against the potential harm to the child or children if existing arrangements are stopped or varied.
Richard Dilks, Head of Family Law at Hatch Brenner comments: “By far the best way to consider these issues is for the parents to communicate with one another constructively whilst keeping the question of what is in the best interest of the child or children at the forefront of their minds. If parents find it difficult to communicate then they could seek the help of a Family Mediator or a specialist Family Law Solicitor. If it is agreed that existing arrangements should be varied, then it would be a good idea for the changes to be recorded by both parents.”
Guidance from the Family Court has made it clear that where one parent exercises their parental responsibility to vary an existing arrangement without the agreement of the other parent then if this is subsequently questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the Court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly. Parents should not use the current health crisis as a reason to frustrate existing arrangements for children to spend time with their other parent.
If a decision is made by one parent or both parents to vary existing arrangements then parents should look at other ways in which children can keep in contact with the other parent remotely by using Skype, Facetime and Zoom, for example, or through messaging services and the telephone.