Differing interpretation of lockdown rules between parents is behind a rise in child arrangement cases according to family law solicitors at SAS Daniels.
Child arrangement orders specify which parent the children will live with and when they will spend time with the other parent in cases where there have been a previous dispute. Current lockdown rules allow for children under 18, and who live between parents in separate households, to continue to move between homes.
The family law solicitors at SAS Daniels are finding many parents across the North West are unclear about how the specifics of lockdown should affect previous child arrangements.
Cases include parents refusing to return children on the basis this falls within the definition of non-essential travel, and parents preventing children from visiting individuals who they believe are failing to follow lockdown guidance.
Anita Scorah (pictured), partner in the family team from SAS Daniels’ Macclesfield office, explains:
COVID-19 has added an additional layer of issues for separated parents. Many find themselves at odds over interpretation of the legislation and guidance. Often, despite having differing interpretations, both believe that they are acting in the best interest of the child, and whilst this may sound implausible, both may be right. There is potentially emotional damage caused by the curtailment of contact between a child and their father, yet contact between that parent and child could result in physical damage being caused to the child if that parent has not been following guidelines and passes the virus to the child as a result. “
“Many disputes we’re hearing are based around each parent having a different perception of risk and attaching different weight to those risks. Fears over transmission are heightened when risk potentially extends to the vulnerable, such as grandparents who form part of the child’s childcare bubble.
“I have had experience of a Judge transferring primary care of a child from mother to father when it was found that the mother was ignoring lockdown rules by failing to limit the number of people entering her household. The court looked again at a pre-existing child arrangement order and swapped primary care to the safer parent.”
“Before a parent takes any action around restricting a child’s contact with a parent, they must understand the guidelines and regulations, speak with the other parent to resolve concerns where possible, and seek legal advice.”
SAS Daniels LLP is a full-service law firm with offices located in Chester, Congleton, Macclesfield and Stockport.