"Regardless of the details of the schedule it is very important to bear in mind, that a child's welfare is the most important consideration in conjunction with government-issued advice."
In terms of lockdown advice to stay at home and away from others, official guidelines specifically address child contact arrangements and include an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement.
But Emma highlighted that this does not mean children must be moved between homes. It states – 'where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents' homes.'
"The most ideal solution for parents is to communicate with one another about their concerns and try to find a workable way forward for their families," said Emma. "It is important to also be mindful that whilst one parent may believe it is safe for contact to continue, it may be entirely reasonable for the other parent to be concerned."
Child arrangements order
If possible, safe and within guidelines, the terms of a court order should be maintained. If restrictions cause the terms to require variation, communication is key between parents to ensure that the spirit of the order is maintained and delivered for the child by making safe alternative arrangements.
"When parents act in agreement and conclude arrangements should be temporarily varied, they should record this via text or email," explained Emma.
When parents cannot agree to vary arrangements and one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with an order would be against the Public Health England/Public Health Wales advice, that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one they consider safe.
A court in the future is likely to consider whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in light of official advice and specific evidence relating to the child or family.
If as a result of a parental agreement or as a result of one parent on their own varying the arrangements, a child is unable to spend time with the co-parent, it is imperative that alternative arrangements are made to maintain regular contact, for example, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, or if this is not possible, by telephone.
The current government guidelines recommend if a member of the household presents symptoms of coronavirus, the entire house must self-isolate for 14 days. Should this be necessary, regular video chats or phone calls will be very important, to ensure both co-parents maintain contact with the child.