What does Stay at Home mean for children with more than one home?

The Stay at Home requirements announced by the Government strictly limit the circumstances in which any of us can leave our homes and, of course, that includes children.

The requirement to stay home is a challenge for all of us, but especially for parents whose children have more than one home because their parents live apart.

To help you navigate the challenges of Stay at Home for children who have more than one home, we have compiled some answers to  frequently asked questions:

Q. Do Child Arrangement Orders (CAOs) still apply during the Stay at Home guidance?

A. Yes. CAOs continue to apply and the Government has confirmed that a child travelling between their parents’ homes is necessary travel as part of the guidance.

Q. What should I do if I don’t think it is safe for my child to travel to the home of their other parent?

A. The most senior family judge in England and Wales, the President of the Family Division has said that in the first instance, you should discuss the issue with the other parent and see if you can agree between yourselves to vary the terms of the CAO temporarily. If you decide to do this, you should record the agreement in writing and send it to the other parent as an email or text message. However, you should not see the current situation as an opportunity to reduce the time the other parent has with the child/ren. If a parent stops the other parent from having time that is contained in an Order it will be a breach of the order, despite the President’s guidance, and a Court could later confirm you have been unreasonable and impose sanctions. See below.

Q. What should I do if I cannot agree with the other parent to vary the CAO temporarily?

A. If you are unable to agree with the other parent to vary the CAO temporarily, you may decide to vary the terms unilaterally.

In these circumstances, you should aim to restrict the time that your child spends with the other parent as little as you possibly can and for the shortest time possible. You should also look to make alternative arrangements, such as regular video calls with the other parent.

In taking a unilateral decision to vary a CAO temporarily, the courts will expect you to have acted reasonably and according to the relevant public health advice.

As with a joint agreement to vary the terms of a CAO, you should record the change and the reasons for it in writing and send them to the other parent.

Mediation can take place via Zoom and can be extremely helpful in helping you both to reach an agreement.

Q. What situations could justify the temporary variation of a CAO?

A. It is not possible to produce a definitive list of circumstances that could warrant a variation of a CAO, because doing so will very much depend on the specific situation in question.

However, examples might include people in the other household self-isolating or showing symptoms, or people in a vulnerable group living in either household.

For more information about varying a Child Arrangement Order or about Mediation, please contact us today.

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Graeme Fraser
Posted in covid-19.