Varying a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) Due to COVID-19

Richard Bevan Spire Solicitors Norwich Norfolk

Richard Bevan

Richard Bevan, Head of Child Care, Spire Solicitors LLP, discusses the subject of parents with children who are subject to a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) imposed by the Family Courts, who may be worried on how to safely comply with their CAO and whether alternative arrangements can be put in place due to current lockdown.

It goes without need for explanation that daily life has been altered drastically with the current pandemic sweeping across the globe. On the 24th March, The Court and Tribunals Judiciary issued general advice and guidance on Child Arrangement Orders.

Following on from government guidance, it has been deemed essential that citizens of the United Kingdom must stay home unless necessary in the provisions highlighted under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”).

Under restrictions of movement ‘During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse. (2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need— (j) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child;’

It is important to note that the above is not obligatory, with the guidance to the parents of the child(ren) to be pragmatic and work together on concerns either parent may raise at this time, with most importance relying on clear communication, resulting in practical solutions.

As always, when communicating in relation to the well-being of a child, it is the best interest of the child, as well as now, the best interest of the family, elderly and high-risk residents in the wider community.

In the current situation, the parent holding parental responsibility are entitled to vary a CAO when deemed necessary via agreement.  This should be documented by use of a traceable source such as on paper, email or text, with a clear date set for review.

Variations are also subject to a discretion of one parent, without consequence in the Family Court should the measures be seen reasonable, in the spirit of the original order and communicated appropriately, ensuring contact arrangements are still made to maintain in regular contact with the second parent.

We are fortunate to live in a technocentric world with new means of communication available from video calls, telephone, emails and more.

If during this time any changes cause a conflict, which do not reflect the best interest of the child(ren) subject to a CAO, we would recommend in the first instance to mediate via video call or use collaborative law.

All our teams will be working remotely, and we have the tools and technology to continue providing an uninterrupted service, continuing to provide you a local, legal and personable service, remotely.

The above article is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to discuss any points in the article, please call Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077 for all your legal needs.