Enforcing child arrangements orders?

Many of our clients have Child Arrangements Orders, ordered or approved by the court. These set out the time that the children spend with their parents. Such arrangements usually involve handovers, when the children move from one parent to the other.

Some of our clients are now thinking about what should happen if someone involved with the children has fallen ill.

Our advice must be that our clients should continue to follow the latest government guidance about self isolation and social distancing, and must put their children’s welfare first.

But what if, by following the latest government advice, a court order will be breached?

While we do not advise anyone that they should deliberately breach a court order without very good reason, we must repeat that government advice should be followed, in order to protect not only the children who are the subject of the order, but also the adults in the children’s lives.

If a parent wished to enforce a child arrangements order, the court would consider two things: has the order actually been breached? And was there a reasonable excuse?  In other words, the court considers the circumstances and the reasons for the breach.

In many child arrangements orders, the final line setting out the arrangements states, “and such further or other contact as the parties may agree”.

We would encourage our clients to work with their co-parents, wherever possible, to ensure that both adults and children are protected.

Parents should think carefully about other forms of contact, if direct contact is not possible. Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp can help to maintain valuable family links.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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