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Can I Stop Contact During The Coronavirus Outbreak?

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As online family law solicitors we are increasingly receiving calls and online enquiries from separated or divorced parents who are worried about the coronavirus outbreak and what they should do about the co-parenting of their children and contact arrangements. In this blog we answer your questions about the coronavirus, stopping contact and co-parenting.

Online children and family law solicitors

In worrying times the children and family law team of specialist children law solicitors are here to help. We are a phone call away. If you have a children law query call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

OTS Solicitors are based in central London but offer a digital online family law service to families around the UK and internationally on any aspect of UK children law answering your family law question with family law advice based on your individual personal circumstances. Call us on 0203 959 9123 for a Skype, video conference or telephone appointment.

Can I stop contact because of the coronavirus outbreak?

Whilst thankfully the statistics say children are at less risk of suffering a serious or life threatening bout of Covid 19 , the virus is nonetheless of immense worry to parents if:

  • Their child has an underlying health condition
  • A member of the family (such as a step-child or step-parent) has an underlying health condition
  • There is a fear that the other parent might have to end up self-isolating and concerns about what that would mean if the child was with the other parent when that parent or member of their family fell ill
  • One parent is perceived to be at greater risk of catching Covid 19, either because they a key worker in the National Health Service or are dealing extensively with members of the public as part of their occupation. For example, they are in the police force or they are working in the food retail sector
  • The means of travel between both parent’s homes involves use of public transport
  • There are concerns that the co-parent takes a more relaxed view on social distancing and still thinks that it is OK to take the child to the park or out and about or on play dates
  • One parent still wants to take the child away on the planned UK holiday
  • There are different parental views on home education and the timetable and schooling expectations whilst schools are closed
  • One parent is of the view that their young child needs to know about Covid 19 whilst the other parent wants to shelter them from the daily news headlines.

These are just a few of the issues that have been raised with the children law experts at OTS Solicitors about why parents want to stop contact because of the coronavirus.

In addition, those thinking about starting court proceedings for child arrangements orders or prohibited steps orders are worried about family court closures and what that might mean for them and getting a court order to stop contact or to see their child or to resolve a specific issue.

Can I keep my child with me during the Covid 19 pandemic?

By far the most common question children law solicitors are being asked is whether a parent can keep their child with them during the Covid 19 outbreak and stop contact, despite their co-parenting agreement.

Parents are asking that question because they are either genuinely worried about their child’s safety or they fear that their child coming into direct contact with their other parent (and other members of his or her family ) will put their child or family at greater risk of getting the coronavirus. Other parent’s fear that if they let their child travel across London to see their other parent or allow their child to go on a UK based holiday that if self-isolation is necessary or a full lock down occurs it may be more difficult for the child to be returned to their care.

It is a worrying time for everyone, and our hearts go out to parents who are committed to contact or to co-parenting but want to stop contact or tear up their co-parenting agreement because of the coronavirus as they want to protect their child and their family at all costs. That reaction can however be very tough on the other parent and child, who has already lost face to face contact with grandparents and school friends and is not able to go to sports clubs or to their usual activities.

As a parent your immediate reaction may be to want to stop all contact between your child and your co-parent. However, children law solicitors are urging worried parents to take legal advice and to discuss their concerns about Covid 19 with their co-parent before stopping contact or drastically changing the co-parenting arrangements.

Some co-parents will understand your fears and if they are reassured that they changes in the co-parenting arrangements are:

  • Down to genuine health fears for your child or a member of the family rather than an excuse to stop contact or to change the co-parenting plan and are
  • Temporary in nature.

Prior to suggesting stopping contact or a change to your co-parenting arrangements it is best to take legal advice on whether you can stop direct contact or legally change the co-parenting plan without the other parent’s agreement. The answer will depend on whether there is an existing child arrangements order in force.

If there are no child arrangements orders in force, then either parent can apply for one. If there is a child arrangements order in place and the other co-parent won't agree to contact stopping or to a change in the co-parenting routine then either of you can apply to court to vary the child arrangements order.

If you don’t follow an existing child arrangements order then technically the other parent could say that you have breached the court order and start enforcement action.

That is why children law solicitors say that it is so important to communicate your worries and fears over the coronavirus outbreak with your co-parent, emphasising that your child and their health and happiness should be your joint focus. Reassurances about the temporary nature of cessation of direct contact or any co-parenting changes as well as offers of Skype, telephone and online contact may help to reassure your co-parent that you understand that asking them to stop direct contact or to change the co-parenting arrangement is tough on them. If you are asking them to cancel a UK holiday you could perhaps offer them their choice of holiday dates for next year or even offer to contribute towards the lost deposit if that is an affordable option for you.

The way you communicate why you feel the need to stop contact or to change the co-parenting plan is the key to finding a solution that gives you the reassurance your child isn’t being put at any unnecessary risk whilst reassuring the other parent that you understand stopping or cutting down on direct contact is hard for them and your child.

Online children and family law solicitors

In these unusual times the children and family law team of specialist children law lawyers at OTS Solicitors are here to help with your children law questions. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our ONLINE ENQUIRY FORM so we can set up a Skype, video conference or telephone appointment for you

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