Many parents are concerned about how they can comply with the latest Government guidance without breaching a Family Court Order. Or, whether they can continue with informal contact arrangements made for the shared care of their children.
These questions and more have been answered by the Lord President, which you can read in full in the link below.
The general position is that parents should act sensibly, safely and in line with the current advice from the Scottish Government and UK Government when considering whether the current arrangements can continue.
Recent guidance was issued for separated families where it was said that “If you and your partner live in separate homes but take turns to look after your children, you can continue to do this”.
That said, if continuing with the present arrangements puts the child(ren) at risk, then a variation of the present arrangements may be agreed on a temporary basis.
What happens if a variation of the contact arrangements cannot be agreed?
Formal Court Order
In the event that there is a formal Court Order then the attached guidance stresses that you should try to stick to the arrangements. Any variation to the contact arrangements made by one party without the consent of the other may become subject to scrutiny by the Court at a later date. In that event they will “look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the Government guidance in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family”.
If an informal arrangement is in place, the advice is to talk with the other party to try to reach an agreement. When making an assessment parents should consider:
- the child(ren)’s present health;
- the risk of infection; and
- the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.
In both situations the key is to take a practical and sensible approach in your particular circumstances. Above all, parents should communicate with each other. It would also be sensible to keep a note of key events as things develop as you may have to explain your decisions and actions at a later date.
The overarching principle is that is is usually in the best interests of the child(ren) to maintain regular contact with both parents.
Where contact in terms of a Court Order cannot take place, alternatives must be considered. In the case of informal arrangements, alternatives may also be appropriate. This might include things like Face-Time, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.
See the Lord President’s guidance in full here – guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-orders-27-03-20