Complying With Child Arrangements Orders During Lockdown

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak the Family Court has issued important guidance on how to comply with Child Arrangement Orders during the current lockdown.

The guidance emphasises that parents must abide by the rules on staying at home and away from others issued by the government on 23 March.

However, government directions outline an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement where parents do not live in the same household, so that children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.

The court’s guidance further clarifies that does not mean that children must be moved between homes, emphasising that parental responsibility (PR) rests with parents and not with the court. Whether a child is to move between parental homes is a decision for the child’s parents to make after assessing the circumstances, including the child’s health, the risk of infection, and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household.

The guidance further highlights that parents can exercise PR and agree that the terms of a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) should be temporarily varied. Any agreement should be recorded in a note, email or text message.

Where parents do not agree to vary the arrangements in a CAO, but one parent is concerned that complying with the CAO would be against advice from Public Health England or Public Health Wales, that parent may exercise PR and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe.

If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting unilaterally are questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the court will assess whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the stay at home rules in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family.

Where, due to parental agreement or otherwise, a child does not get to spend time with a parent as ordered, the courts will expect alternative arrangements to be made to maintain regular contact between the child and their parent within the stay at home rules. For example, facilitating indirect contact by FaceTime, WhatsApp Video, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.

Where COVID-19 restrictions cause an order to be varied, the spirit of the order should be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements.

For more information please contact us.

No-Fault Divorce Back On The Agenda

The government has moved quickly to put much-anticipated divorce reform back on the parliamentary agenda by reintroducing legislation to end what the justice secretary calls ‘needless antagonism’.

The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill came to a standstill twice as a result of September’s prorogation of parliament and December’s general election. The bill, which introduces provisions for no-fault divorce and had previously passed through two readings in the Commons and the committee stage, has now been introduced to the House of Lords.

Current law requires spouses to evidence at least one of five ‘facts’: adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), or five years’ separation (if the other spouse disagrees). 

The bill will replace the requirement to evidence conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The possibility of contesting the decision to divorce will be removed. The court will be able to make a conditional order after 20 weeks has passed from the start of proceedings.

Upon hearing the news Perveez Sethna, Partner & Head of Parry Law’s Matrimonial & Family Department commented: “We wholeheartedly support the sentiments and intentions of this bill. By averting the need to play the blame game there should be less resentment which should allow families to more easily move on with their lives.”

Collaborative Family Law

We are delighted to announce that Perveez Sethna, our Head of Family has qualified as a Collaborative Lawyer.

As an alternative to the Court based process, we are now able to offer our clients an alternative route to resolving all issues, including those relating to finances and children.

Unlike the traditional process whereby when couples split they each take independent advice from their own family lawyer, the collaborative route consists of a series of round table meetings whereby you and your former partner, each with your own solicitors all sit down with an agreed commitment to resolve issues together. Rather than dealing through solicitors this process allows you to work with them to reach the best solution for you and your family.

Under this process it is not necessary for either of the parties to attend Court.

At its simplest, the collaborative process is all about reaching solutions together, to ease the pain of family breakdown.

If you wish to find out more information about the collaborative law process please contact Perveez Sethna either by telephone on number (01227) 276276 or by email at –