Court action possible for parents exploiting Covid-19 lockdown
Parents who are exploiting the Covid-19 lockdown guidance to avoid their obligations may face court action.
The lockdown imposed by the Government back on 23 March has sadly seen an increase in cases of parents who can no longer see their children and who are facing difficulty in agreeing arrangements with their ex-partner. The current guidance for parents who live apart states that children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes after a sensible discussion, and an assessment that the children are not being put at risk. However, it appears there are parents out there who may have chosen to exploit the Covid-19 guidance to stop visits altogether.
At the start of the Covid-19 lockdown cabinet Minister Michael Gove caused confusion among families when appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said children were to remain in the household they were currently in. However, minutes later on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove said children under the age of 18 could move between households.
The head of the family courts, Sir Andrew McFarlane in an interview with the BBC on 21 April has said that children should continue to visit parents they do not live with, as long as both households are healthy. Sir Andrew believes the guidance is adequate and that a child’s safety with regard to the virus is a matter for parental judgement. The courts would not take that away but he has also made it clear that those parents who are choosing to ignore child court orders already in place could end up facing legal action. He warns: “If the parents are acting in a cynical and opportunistic manner, then that’s wrong, and the courts will regard it as wrong.”
He is urging families in conflict to focus on children’s welfare, and to make sure they are in touch with both of their parents. His message: “Do something you don’t want to do, for the sake of your child.”
If you are experiences difficulties with your ex-partner over the arrangements for seeing your children during lockdown, please do not hesitate to get in contact with one of our family team solicitors and we can do our best to assist you with this. Speak to us in confidence on 01473 617 317.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.