Marilyn Bell, partner and head of the family team at SA Law shares her thoughts on the impact coronavirus may have on contact arrangements for publication Lexis Nexis.
Along with Jonathan Evans, barrister at 4PB, Katie Spooner, partner at Winckworth Sherwood and Chris Longbottom, partner and head of the Manchester family team at Clarke Willmott; Marilyn Bell considers how the coronavirus outbreak may effect arrangements for children whose parents are divorced or separated, both in cases where a court order is in place and those where the arrangements are more informal. How the court may deal with the breach of an existing order is also examined.
You can read an excerpt from the interview below or click here to read the whole interview for Lexis Nexis including answers to the following questions:
- What if one parent is self-isolating or taken ill?
- What steps can be taken if a child arrangements order is breached? How will the current largely remote access to the courts impact on any existing proceedings or on enforcement?
How may the coronavirus impact on contact arrangements? How might shared care work?
Marilyn Bell: Many separated parents are able to prioritise their children above their own feelings towards their former spouse. Sadly however this is not always the case. A parent who does not really want the children to spend time with the other parent will often look to find reasons why contact shouldn’t take place and illness can be used as a reason. If a child is seriously unwell it may not be best for them to travel even a short distance to spend time with the other parent on agreed or court ordered dates (and to do so would be contrary to the guidance). However, in many cases a child could be looked after equally well during an illness by either parent and could travel to the other’s home but illness, even a slight cold, may be given as a reason to cancel contact. In ordinary times a doctor’s sick note could be obtained to substantiate the child’s illness.
The current guidance is that if anyone has one of the listed symptoms they should self-isolate for seven days. Anyone in contact with an infected person should self-isolate for 14 days. Bear in mind this scenario: the children could go to parent one for the weekend, and while there parent one’s new partner develops one of the listed symptoms. The children and parent one should remain where they are and self-isolate for 14 days. If the government guidance is followed, parent one in that situation should not return the children to parent two.
Click here to read the whole interview for Lexis Nexis featuring Marilyn Bell.