A family lawyer based in Cornwall is advising separated parents to think carefully before changing their children’s contact arrangements with the other parent during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sarah Evans, a partner in the Coodes’ Liskeard office has said that some parents could be accused of trying to exploit the social distancing measures to change the family’s usual child contact arrangements.
“Here at Coodes we are receiving a number of enquiries about child contact arrangements during the lockdown,” she said.
“The official advice to separated or divorced parents is that children under 18 can move between their parents’ homes if they are not deemed to be at risk. That means that, in most cases, children’s living and contact arrangements can remain the same. Maintaining the usual schedule will help establish some sense of routine and normality for children at an uncertain time.”
The Government guidance has stated that, in some circumstances, parents may need to change their usual arrangements to keep family members safe. This includes when anyone in either household is displaying symptoms and family members need to temporarily self-isolate or if family members are more vulnerable as a result of medical issues.
“Some parents may need to change their usual arrangements to keep family members as safe as possible,” said Evans.
“This could be because a member of their household is medically vulnerable, because the usual arrangements would result in significant periods of non-essential travel or because one of the parents works in a high risk area.
“These are all sensible and proportionate reasons why contact arrangements may need to change. It will, however, not be reasonable or sensible to stop contact simply as a result of the pandemic. The guidance is quite clear that, in the absence of appropriate reasons, the child’s arrangements ought to continue as normal.
“While some parents are seeking to change arrangements because they are, understandably, concerned about their family’s safety, others are clearly seeking to manipulate the situation to prevent their former spouse or partner from having contact with the children. It is clear from the guidance issued that the family courts will take a dim view of anyone who exploits the lockdown to gain an advantage over the other parent.”