Covid-19 & Contact Issues
Below you have two styles of questions and answers for you to choose from. One is in the form of a Zoom session recorded between our Private Family Solicitor, Dion Calder and our Solicitor Apprentice, Angelina Aitan. The other is in written form below the video. They seek to answer some of the more common questions around the issue of contact with children during the Covid-19 restrictions.
Do the Lockdown restrictions mean that I cannot have contact with my child who does not live with me?
Not at all. It is very important that children still have contact with the non-resident parent. What may differ is how this contact will take place. The default position is what is set out in the Court order though, in the current climate, there are certain situations when this will change. If direct contact is not possible, the non-resident parent must be offered alternative arrangements to see the child.
I do not want my child to leave my house for contact – they are extremely vulnerable to the virus. Do I have to follow a court order?
If the resident parent has genuine concerns about the wellbeing of their child due to the virus, they should discuss this with the non-resident parent and try to come to an alternative arrangement to vary the terms of the current order. If this is not possible, the non-resident parent may return the matter to Court and the burden will be on the resident parent to convince the Court that they have acted reasonably in the circumstances.
I am worried that my ex-partner will use the pandemic as an excuse to stop me seeing my child. What can I do if s/he does this?
There is a danger that some parents may seek to take advantage of the current pandemic by refusing to allow the non-resident parent any form of contact.
If the resident parent is refusing to allow direct contact, the non-resident parent should ask why they feel the child or someone in the household is at a greater risk. If the resident parent cannot, or will not, explain why they have prevented contact, the matter may need to be returned to Court.
The resident parent should also offer an alternative form of contact between the non-resident parent and the child, while direct contact is being opposed.
My ex-partner was having supervised contact with our child and there are no longer workers available and/or the contact centre has closed. What should we do?
If the Court order directed that contact with the non-resident parent is supervised or should take place in a contact centre, you will need to try to agree on alternative contact arrangements. If contact takes place in a contact centre, check whether they can help with setting up virtual contact sessions over the internet. These can still be supervised, if necessary. If there is no need for confidentiality or supervision of contact over the internet, there is no reason why you could not arrange this with the other parent.
There is no court order, but I am being stopped from seeing my child. What do I do?
Children need to have a relationship with both parents as much as possible whether there is a Court order or not. Parents should try to agree on alternative means of contact while the restrictions are in place. If this is not possible, you will need to apply to court.
I do not get on with the other parent, so it is hard to make arrangements
If you have had difficulties communicating in the past, a third party can be used to help you with discussions, such as a family member, friend or a solicitor. If you still cannot agree, you could try a mediator and if this still does not work, you may need to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order. There may be a delay in getting your application heard under the current circumstances.
What are some examples of alternative contact?
The most common means of contact during the pandemic is video contact with applications like Facetime, Zoom or Skype.
Parents should try to be creative with contact to keep it exciting for children. For a younger child, this may be things like reading to them or singing songs whereas for older children they could do things like exercising together or hosting a quiz. The importance is that they keep contact fun for children, especially because it is quite difficult for them in the circumstances as well.
The uncertainty that we face is difficult for everyone, particularly children. The key is for parents to work together for the good of the child(ren) they share, to ensure that they are well supported during this crisis.
If you require any specific advice about Child Arrangements Orders, please do not hesitate to contact Dion Calder on 0121 270 1566