Having Contact with your Child in Coronavirus Lockdown

childabductionYesterday evening, the government announced more stringent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus Covid 19 within our communities.  These measures have effectively resulted in a lockdown, with the nation being told to stay at home and cease all non-essential travel. 

Many separated parents were left confused following this announcement, not knowing whether they could legitimately facilitate contact between their child and the other parent without being in violation of the government guidance.

This morning, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove clarified that children being taken from one parent’s home to another for contact is permitted during lockdown.  The official government guidance states: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parent’s home”.

Following this, new guidance which has been provided to family law practitioners in England & Wales which states that “the decision whether a child is to move between parental homes is for the child’s parents to make after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.”

This clarification will be welcomed by many coparenting couples who are keen to ensure they act responsibly in facilitating contact to control the spread of the virus.  However, other separated parents may be concerned either that the movement of their child between households will increase the risk of infection or that they will not be facilitated direct contact with their children due to concerns about the virus.

Unfortunately, where the law stands in this scenario is unclear. While a resident parent cannot suspend contact solely on the basis that there has been a government lockdown, many parents may seek to suspend contact due to concerns about their child’s safety, their risk of exposure to the virus or alternatively their concern about its potential spread if contact is facilitated.  All of these concerns could be considered entirely legitimate in the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in.

I have a Contact Order but am not being permitted contact – what do I do?  

If a parent’s contact with their child has been secured by way of a Contact Order, that parent is at liberty to issue contempt proceedings should the Court Order be breached at any time by the other parent.   However, in the current circumstances, the Court may not be in a position to deal with such an application and even if it did so it may be difficult for a Court to determine that the breach of the Order was not justifiable in the circumstances.

The guidance released today in England and Wales states that where one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with a Court Order regarding contact would contravene public health advice, that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the contact arrangement to one that they consider to be safe. The guidance goes on to state that; “If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting on their own in this way are questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the court is likely to look to see 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.”

These coming weeks and months will be a difficult time for separated parents who are struggling to engage meaningfully with one another to reach agreement with how contact arrangements should work.  In the absence of any agreement being reached regarding direct face-to -face contact, all efforts should be made to agree some level of indirect contact via telephone, Facetime or Skype. This level of contact will at the very least allow a child to obtain reassurance and support from both parents at this very uncertain time, as well as ensuring that the parent/child relationship can be maintained, albeit at a distance.

For further information on child contact matters, feel free to contact us here or using the comment box below.

Grandparent’s Day 2015: Having Contact with Your Grandchildren

grandparents day

Grandparent’s Day 2015 will be celebrated across the UK on 13th September 2015.

The bond between a grandparent and their grandchild is regarded as one of the most precious relationships in life.  Grandparents are free of the stresses of parenting and can simply enjoy a fun and loving relationship with their grandchild.   Often this relationship can be of great benefit, not only to grandparent and grandchild but also to busy parents who can have some valued time off from parenting.
But for some grandparents, having a relationship with their grandchild can be impossible if one or both of the child’s parents refuse allow them to have contact time with their grandchildren.  Often this can happen when the parents have separated and bad feeling develops amongst the wider family.
If you are a grandparent in this position, there are things that you can do to try and see your grandchildren.  

I want to see my grandchild – what can I do??

If contact between you and your grandchild cannot be agreed then you can apply to the Court for a Contact Order.  You must first seek permission from the Court to bring such an application however in all but exceptional circumstances this permission is granted.

Once permission is granted, the Court would then consider your application for contact in more general terms.  Both of your grandchild’s parents would be a party in this application and they are entitled ask the Court to consider any objections which they may have in relation to you having contact with your grandchild.

What will the Court look at when deciding on whether to grant me a Contact Order??

The Court will consider all the circumstances of your case but in particular the Court will look at what is in the best interests of your grandchild.  The Court may ask a Court appointed social worker (known as the Court Children’s Officer) to speak to your grandchild in order to find out what his/her views are in relation to having contact with you.  Your grandchild’s views will be taken into account however how much weight the Court places on their views will depend on their age and understanding.

How much contact can I expect to get with my grandchild?

Whilst the Courts are sympathetic to grandparent’s applications for contact and are aware of the importance of such a relationship, a grandparent would not generally expect as much contact as a parent who is living apart from his/her children.   That being said, a Court will consider each case on its own circumstances and permit contact at a level that they believe is in the child’s best interests.

I want my grandchild to come and live with me – can I ask the Court for this?

In some exceptional circumstances, a grandparent may apply for their grandchild to reside with them.  This would generally be in cases where the parents are not providing adequate care for their child.  If successful, the Court would grant a grandparent a Residence Order in respect of their grandchild. A Residence Order would allow a grandparent to have Parental Responsibility for the child so that they could make day to day decisions regarding the child as well as engage with the child’s school and GP.

If you would like some further information on this area, please feel free to leave your comments below or alternatively contact us at kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or cedgar@fhanna.co.uk


Father’s Rights


Father’s Day is a celebration of fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in our lives.  It’s a day when children lavish daddy with cards, gifts, hugs and kisses and where fathers celebrate both the joys and rewards of having children.

Of course, the role of being a dad extends above and beyond one particular day and as any dad will know, along with the rewards of having children comes a lifetime of responsibility. It is the job of both parents to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.

This can sometimes be difficult to achieve when the parent’s relationship breaks down. Separation, particularly when the father and child no longer live together, can leave daddy feeling like his role in his child’s life is somehow diminished and less important.

This does not have to be the case. As a father, you can have Parental Responsibility for your child

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is the legal term for the rights of each parent to be involved in making decisions in the best interest of their children.

It is defined in the Children (NI) Order 1995 as ‘all rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property.’

Do I have Parental Responsibility?

If you are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, you automatically get Parental Responsibility.

If you and the child’s mother are not married, Parental Responsibility is not automatic but you can get it n the following ways:-

  • If your child is born after December 2003 and you are named on the birth certificate
  • Through a formal written agreement with the mother
  • By obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court
  • By having a Residence Order in respect of your child.

What difference does having Parental Responsibility make?

Parental Responsibility is not a label to be worn by a father.

In practical terms, this responsibility gives you as the child’s father the right, for example,

  • To be involved in choosing their school
  • To be kept informed of their progress at school and sent copies of school reports.
  • To give consent to medical treatment
  • To determine your child’s religion
  • To be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree any change in surname.

I have separated from my child’s mother – do I still have rights?

The short answer is yes.

Parental Responsibility goes some way to ensuring that you can continue to have a pro-active and beneficial input into your child’s life.

Where parents separate, it will often be the case that they can work out themselves where their children are to live and how much time they will spend with each parent.

However, if you cannot agree arrangement with your child’s mother, then you can apply to the Court and ask it to make decisions that are deemed to be in the best interests of your child.

  • The Court can decide where and with whom your child should live. This is known as a Residence Order.
  • In some cases, the Court may make a Joint Residence Order in favour of both parents, where the contact arrangements are such that your child will be spending time living in both your home and their mum’s home.
  • If your child lives with mum, the Court can decide on how much contact you can have with your child. This is known as Contact Orders.
Although in an ideal world it is better where possible for parents to agree issues concerning their children, the law is there to guarantee your child’s right to enjoy a relationship with both parents where this is in their best interests.

For further information on this topic, please feel free to contact Karen or Claire or alternatively leave us your comments below.


Having Contact with Your Children


Relationship breakdown is a very painful time for the adults involved, but it can be even more difficult for children.

Children within the family are often the innocent and confused casualties of the breakdown of a relationship.

What if I can’t agree contact arrangements with my ex-partner?

Many parents are able to agree between themselves arrangements for their children which enable them to continue to enjoy a relationship with both parents.

For many other families contact arrangements cannot be agreed.  Some parents choose to engage in mediation as a means of trying to negotiate a solution.

Where mediation is not suitable or has proved unsuccessful, an application can be made to Family Courts to resolve the issue of contact.

Children proceedings are dealt with by the Family Proceedings Court – in this Court,  the child’s best interests are the primary concern. This means that the main focus will always be on the welfare of the child first, rather than the rights of either parent.  It is a commonly held view that (if safe and appropriate) a child should enjoy a relationship with both parents.

What will the Court look at when deciding on contact arrangements?

Each family is a unique group of individuals and in considering an application for contact, the Court will look at the particular circumstances of the child and family in question.   Contact arrangements will differ depending on the circumstances of each family.

The views and the feelings of the child involved are also taken into account and a Court Children’s Officer (who is essentially, a Court-appointed Social Worker) may be asked to speak with the children individually to try to ascertain what these are.

How much weight is given to a particular child’s wishes will depend upon the age and understanding of that child: for example the views of a 14 year old child would weigh more heavily in influencing decisions than those of an 8 year old child.

Additionally, a child will not be forced to have contact with someone they are afraid of or who harms them in any way.

What is a Contact Order?

Contact Orders are Court Orders which set out the arrangements for when the non-resident parent can see their children.

Contact arrangements can vary in each case and therefore there are many different Contact Orders which a Court could make including the following:-

  • Indirect Contact – for example,  the exchange of letters, cards and e-mails between parent and child with no regular visits
  • Direct Contact – regular weekly contact between the child and parent
  • Overnight Contact
  • Holiday contact – for example, additional contact at Easter, summer or Christmas.

Contact can also be supervised in cases where the Court directs that a relative or social worker must be present during visits.

How do Court proceedings conclude?

In most cases, Orders are made by agreement between the parents with the help of their legal advisors; this is the most preferable method, as Orders which are made with the consent of both parents are much more likely to work successfully in the future and reduce antagonism between the parties. However where agreement cannot be reached, the Court will fully hear arguments from both parents and will ultimately make a Contact Order which is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

When seeking a Solicitor to deal with this particular kind of case, it is important that you look for not only legal representation and good negotiation skills; your Solicitor should be understanding and be capable of supporting mothers and fathers through this difficult period in life whilst progressing towards a workable arrangement which is in your child’s best interests.

If you require any further information, please contact us below or email us at info@fhanna.co.uk