During the current coronavirus pandemic many parents are understandably concerned about the impact on their Child Arrangement Order. The circumstances of every family differ and many parents and guardians have voiced concerns over their ability to meet the requirements of their Child Arrangement Order.
During the current Public Health crisis, the government has asked those who care for children to act safely and sensibly, especially when making decisions about who can care for their children and where.
Parents are guided to make decisions that are safe and be pragmatic in their approach. If there is a Court Order in place, if possible, contact should continue if it is safe to do so. The guidance to parents is that they should communicate clearly with each other and think practically about how relationships can be maintained alongside keeping themselves and the children safe.
Parents communicating with each other is “easier said than done” and should seek professional legal advice before contemplating breaching an existing Child Arrangement Order.
Coronavirus lockdown and a Child Arrangement Order… your questions answered
Head of Family Law, Edwina Harkin from leading Liverpool law firm Paul Crowley & Co answers parents questions and concerns on how the government’s enforced lockdown affects their existing Child Arrangement Order.
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
A Child Arrangement Order is an order that regulates with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
In many situations, a Child Arrangement Order will run alongside a specific issue order, which defines how a child is raised and a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO), which stops a parent from making particular decisions.
‘Sadly communication with your ex partner may not always be possible, we would advise if there is a Court Order in place, contact should continue if it is safe to do so. If a parent believes their Child Arrangement Order has been breached, please call us on 0151 264 7363 and we will be happy to assist.’
Edwina Harkin | Head of Family Law
Paul Crowley & Co, Solicitors
What is the government guidance for a Child Arrangement Order during the coronavirus outbreak?
Currently, parents are asked to follow the government rules which were issued on 23 March, known as the Stay at Home Rules.
The rules state that it is no longer permitted for any person, including children, to be outside their home unless it involves essential shopping, medical needs, daily exercise, or essential work.
However, the advice extends to cover child contact arrangements and permits parents who do not live together to allow children to move between parents’ homes. Although this is an exemption to the Stay at Home Rules, the final decision is down to the child’s parents based on their individual circumstances.
The President of the Family Division the Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew McFarlane has published some brief guidance on compliance with existing child arrangement orders during the Coronavirus lockdown.
The guidance provides for exemptions to the general “stay at home” Government guidance where it is considered if there is a Child Arrangement Order in place, then children should continue to travel between their separated parents. However, this does not mean they must continue to do so.
Speak to a lawyer now…
To speak directly with our family law team please call 0151 264 7363 and a member of our team will be happy to assist.
What happens if you breach a Child Arrangement Order during the coronavirus outbreak?
Under the circumstances, there could be times when a Child Arrangement Order is broken.
Problems could arise if one parent believes the arrangement would be against the advice of Public Health England, while the other wants the arrangement to stay in place.
If a parent believes their Child Arrangement Order has been breached, the courts are operating remotely, and parents can apply to the court for enforcement. If required, the court can decide whether parents are acting reasonably in light of the current situation.
How to apply for a Child Arrangement order
The family court has put arrangements in place so that new applications for a Child Arrangement Order can be processed during the pandemic.
As the courts are operating remotely, it is recommended that applications are made online. However, unless you have already been deemed exempt, you will still need to attend a remote Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), before making your application.
How long does it take to get a Child Arrangement Order?
It is difficult to put a timescale on a Child Arrangement Order as it depends on each individual case. It usually takes 4-6 weeks from application to list for first hearing.
Your application will be processed by The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), via telephone calls and videoconferencing.
The hearing itself will take place remotely and if parents are unable to agree, a Cafcass report will be used to help the court make a decision.
If you have serious safety concerns or require the courts to hear your case within the next 3 days, you should contact your local court rather than applying online.
If you would like to discuss your situation today or to discuss any aspect of your Child Arrangement Order please contact our family law department on 0151 264 7363 and a member of our staff will be happy to help.
How long does a Child Arrangement Order last?
A Child Arrangement Order for contact will usually last until a child turns 16 and will then lapse automatically, this includes a Child Arrangement Order which has no end date on it.
In exceptional circumstances, a Child Arrangement Order which states only where and when a child should live will continue until a child is 18, unless the order says otherwise or the court decides to end it.
If you and your ex-partner have had a reconciliation and moved back in together, then the Order will cease after six months of living together.
Am I entitled to legal aid?
If you are in receipt of benefit you may be entitled to legal aid, to find if you are eligible please call Rachel from our family law team on 0151 264 7363.
How Paul Crowley & Co can help
Paul Crowley & Co’s Family Law Department remains fully operational during the lockdown and are available to take your calls.
It is hoped that parents will be able to work together during these unprecedented times, however, if this is not possible, Paul Crowley & Co can offer further information and initial free legal advice.
If you are in a dispute with your ex-partner and require expert legal advice over where your child or children should live, or have a general question regarding your existing contact arrangements, our family law department are here to help.
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