For many parents, the current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the unthinkable: situations where parents cannot see or talk to their own children.
We receive hundreds of enquiries from parents who want to know what to do and what their legal rights are during this lockdown period. We will answer your frequently asked questions below.
Can I see my children during the lockdown period?
The Government has issued guidance which states that you can see your children during the lockdown period. There is an exception to the ‘stay at home’ rules, which permits children to move between their parents’ homes.
However, it is vital that you consider the following before deciding whether your children should be spending time in both homes:
- Your child/children’s health
- Whether there are any vulnerable people in either home
- Whether anyone in either household (including children) are showing COVID-19 symptoms
Is travelling to ‘pick up’ or ‘drop off’ my children for contact with the other parent classed as essential travel? How far am I permitted to travel?
The government guidance has established that travel between both parents’ homes is considered as essential travel. There is currently no guidance on how far you can travel.
You should follow government guidance on social distancing when transferring your children between your respective homes.
- You should try to travel by car and avoid public transport where possible
- If you must take public transport, ensure that you follow social distancing guidelines.
Each case will be considered on its own merits and parents should consider whether in their circumstances, it is safe to travel.
Where can handover of my children take place if my local contact centre has closed?
Many contact centres have been impacted significantly by the pandemic and have been forced to close. If your local contact centre has closed, you may be able to find an alternative contact centre to facilitate the handover. A list of these centres can be found at naccc.org.uk/find-a-centre.
If you are unable to find a contact centre, indirect contact by way of video calls and telephone calls should be maintained as an alternative.
I do not have a Child Arrangements order from the Court. What can I do if the other parent does not allow me to have contact during the current pandemic?
Any informal agreement for contact should be maintained where possible. Children can travel between their parents’ homes regardless of whether there is a Court Order in place or not.
If the other parent will not comply or co-operate with you, you can make an application to the Court. Please contact us for legal advice prior to making any application.
What can I do if the other parent will not return my children to me during the pandemic?
Government guidance is clear and has stated that children can be moved between their parents’ homes. This means that the usual contact arrangements can proceed. If there are no medical issues within either household and neither household is self-isolating, children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents and if a Child Arrangement Order is in place it should be followed as closely as possible.
If you have an informal arrangement and the other parent is refusing contact, then you can make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangement Order.
If you have a Child Arrangement Order in place, you can make an emergency application to the Court to enforce this. Please contact us for advice prior to making any application.