From 1st June 2020 lockdown in England has been eased considerably with many children returning to schools and families and friends allowed to meet in groups of up to six provided that they observe social distancing rules when outside.
There was much confusion at the start of lockdown back in March, when government ministers appeared to contradict the government’s own advice on how child contact could continue against the background of restrictions. As we all adjust to the ‘new normal’ in light of the gradual easing of lockdown, we, at RJT Solicitors, are here to help with any child arrangements questions you may have.
Can the arrangements start again?
For many families, contact continued more or less as normal throughout lockdown as the rules requiring us to stay at home did not apply to children moving between households for contact as long as general rules on social distancing and hygiene were adhered to. However, some families chose to limit and /or stop the usual contact arrangements to protect children and/or other family members of the household who were shielding. Some families will have members of their household who are still required to shield even after the lockdown restrictions have eased and if they have stopped contact they will have to decide carefully when and how contact will resume.
In theory, the answer is yes providing parties adhere to government advice which is ever changing. The Family Courts are favouring a smooth transition approach to provide as much stability and reassurance for the children as possible. Even where there has been a court order in force for some considerable time, it may be that the child/children will benefit from a brief transition period before reverting to the usual arrangements. This pandemic has resulted in a particularly confusing and scary time for all of us, but especially our children. They have had the phrase ‘stay at home’ repeated frequently since March and as we ease out of lockdown the children may well require the support of both parents to reassure them and give them confidence to return to some form of ‘normality’ and engage in activities which they did as part of their contact pre Covid-19.
Can grandparents see their grandchildren?
Even if children have been travelling between households to maintain contact with both parents, it is likely that they will not have seen their grandparents for some time. Fortunately, they can now do so provided they comply with current guidance and keep 2 metres apart outside. Those who are shielding, which includes a large number of grandparents, can now go out so they too can see their grandchildren outside up to a maximum of six people at any one time.
What if agreement cannot be reached between a child’s parents?
Just as parents were encouraged to reach agreement regarding arrangements concerning their children during lockdown, this continues to be the case as the lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted. If agreement cannot be reached, then help from a solicitor may assist and/or negotiations via mediation. Ultimately, if the parties are unable to agree as to what is in the child’s best interests then an application to the Court can be made. At the moment, the majority of hearings are continuing to take place remotely and where this is not appropriate, there is likely to be a longer delay than normal in having your case listed.
If you have any queries regarding child arrangements give us a call on 01257 228027 for a free no obligation chat.