Can my child move between homes during lockdown?
On 4th January 2021, the government announced a third national lockdown, imposing further restrictive measures and encouraging people to stay at home as much as possible. So what happens to those who are co-parenting? Can children move between homes during lockdown?
With strict rules, and many children out of school, it can be confusing for parents to know what they should do when it comes to children dividing their time between the homes of their separated parents.
What are the rules for children moving between co-parents’ homes?
The current guidance is the same as what was previously set out by Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, on 24th March 2020. It states that, where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can move between their parents’ homes.
This means that for the purposes of contact, children can move between households to enable them to have contact and maintain a relationship with both of their parents.
Are there guidelines co-parents should follow?
The guidance recommends that parents act sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their children. The decision as to whether a child should move between homes is therefore for the parents to make after making a sensible assessment of the circumstances, which is to include the child’s health, risk of infection and vulnerable individuals.
What happens to child contact if court proceedings are ongoing?
If court proceedings are ongoing, or if a court application is issued, the court will consider whether contact has been withheld unreasonably. The main thing people need to be doing is communicating with one another about their concerns and what would be a good practical solution. There are many other options for indirect contact, such as Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, to take place even if direct contact cannot happen.
Any alterations to the arrangements, however, will not be legally binding. It would therefore be sensible for each parent to record such an agreement in a note, email or text message sent to each other.
Are there any exceptions?
You should not send your child to another parent for contact if:
- Anyone in your household has coronavirus symptoms and you are self-isolating
- Anyone in the other person’s household has coronavirus symptoms and they are self-isolating
- Your child is poorly with something that might be coronavirus
- You or your child would have to expose yourself to a health risk to get to that contact
In summary, the expectation is that parents act in a sensible and reasonable way in relation to contact arrangements, whilst assessing the risks involved and abiding by the ‘Stay at Home’ guidance. If contact cannot take place, you should think about offering it via telephone or video.
If you have any questions or concerns about arrangements for children during this time, please do not hesitate to contact our family law solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.