Contact Rules During the Pandemic
The Covid tier system, introduced in October, created increasing uncertainty for children with separated parents – did rules restricting movement in certain areas of the country mean that children were able to move between tier locations if their parents live in separate areas? For example, one parent may live in Manchester, designated Tier 3, while the other parent lives in Wigan, deemed Tier 2 and therefore subject to different social restrictions. Now that we have returned to a lockdown that largely resembles the one imposed in March, have contact rules changed further?
Confusion has been perpetuated by the government previously implying contact could be affected by stricter restrictions, but the rules have in fact remained the same for such families since March. The rules preventing different households mixing indoors contain certain exceptions. The exemptions that apply to child contact state that mixing is allowed in the following circumstances:
“for the purposes of arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children where the children do not live in the same household as their parents or one of their parents;
for the purposes of arrangements for contact between siblings where they do not live in the same household and one or more of them is— (i) a child looked after by a local authority;
the person concerned is fulfilling a legal obligation or participating in legal proceedings.”
Parliament published a Briefing Paper on the 15th October 2020 which gives more guidance to parents and can be found here.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister made it abundantly clear during his 31st October press conference that child contact can continue as normal, allowing children to move from one household to another for contact purposes to live with the other parent.
Recent Parliamentary advice shows that where a child is required to self-isolate for 14 days, visiting a parent who the child does not live with is not a listed reason why the child may leave the house. In accordance with advice published in March 2020 by the President of the Family Division of the High Court, court-ordered contact can still be facilitated in these circumstances albeit remotely, through FaceTime, Whatsapp FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, other video connection or otherwise by telephone.
Further advice and clarification can be provided by our team of Family Lawyers, who can be contacted through our dedicated Family Law Clinic Facebook group which can be found here.