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.

Parental Responsibility

parentalresponsibility1

Being a parent brings with it many joys and rewards, though most parents would agree that with these rewards comes a lifetime of responsibility.  
It is the job of both parents of a child to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.
What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is a legal term which reflects the rights parents in Northern Ireland have to be involved in making decisions in the best interests of their children.

Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children (Northern Ireland) 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”.

In practical terms what does Parental Responsibility mean?

In terms of education, for example, any parent with Parental Responsibility has the right to be involved in choosing their child’s school, to be notified of school events and to be sent copies of the child’s school reports. They may also provide consent with regards to what information is released about their child and having an input in regards to how their child is disciplined.

Parents with Parental Responsibility also have the right to give consent to medical treatment, to determine the child’s religion, to be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree to any change of name.

In summary, Parental Responsibility provides you, as the child’s parent, with the right to make decisions in the following aspects of your child’s life:

  • providing a home for your child
  • protecting and maintaining your child
  • how your child is disciplined
  • choosing the school in which your child will be educate
  • determining the religious upbringing of your child
  • consenting to medical treatment of your child
  • providing or allowing any confidential information about your child which is requested to be disclosed

Having Parental Responsibility also includes the following: 

  • naming your child and agreeing to any change of your child’s name;
  • applying for a passport for your child;
  • accompanying your child outside of the UK and agreeing to your child’s emigration
  • being responsible for your child’s property, for instance if your child inherits property at an early age;
  • appointing a guardian for your child
Do all mothers have Parental Responsibility?

In Northern Ireland, every mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for their child.

Do all fathers have Parental Responsibility?

Fathers in Northern Ireland are often not aware that they do not necessarily have automatic Parental Responsibility over their child.

A father who is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth will have automatic Parental Responsibility, as will a father who adopts a child.

How can I acquire Parental Responsibility for my child?

If you are a father who falls outside the above categories, you  can legally acquire Parental Responsibility after the birth of your child in a number of ways, for instance:

  • If your child was born after 1st December 2003, you acquire Parental Responsibility if your name has been put on your child’s birth certificate.
  • If you and the child’s mother enter a Parental Responsibility Agreement
  • If the Court makes a Parental Responsibility Orderin your favour

If the Court makes an order for the child to reside with the father, he will obtain Parental Responsibility by virtue of that order.

A stepfather may also acquire Parental Responsibility by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

What happens to Parental Responsibility if parents separate?

Both parents may continue to exercise Parental Responsibility following separation and are entitled to be involved in decisions about their children’s upbringing.

Sometimes parents with Parental Responsibility can disagree about how these rights are exercised.  If they cannot resolve this disagreement, they may apply to the Court which will decide the issue on the basis of what it considers to be the child’s best interests.

If you would like further information on Parental Responsibility, please feel free to email us here or leave your comments below

Parental Responsibility

parentBeing a parent brings with it many joys and rewards, though most parents would agree that with these rewards comes a lifetime of responsibility.  

It is the job of both parents of a child to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is a legal term which reflects the rights parents in Northern Ireland have to be involved in making decisions in the best interests of their children.

Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children (Northern Ireland) 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”.

In practical terms what does Parental Responsibility mean?

In terms of education, for example, any parent with Parental Responsibility has the right to be involved in choosing their child’s school, to be notified of school events and to be sent copies of the child’s school reports. They may also provide consent with regards to what information is released about their child and having an input in regards to how their child is disciplined.

Parents with Parental Responsibility also have the right to give consent to medical treatment, to determine the child’s religion, to be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree to any change of name.

In summary, Parental Responsibility provides you, as the child’s parent, with the right to make decisions in the following aspects of your child’s life:

  • providing a home for your child
  • protecting and maintaining your child
  • how your child is disciplined
  • choosing the school in which your child will be educate
  • determining the religious upbringing of your child
  • consenting to medical treatment of your child
  • providing or allowing any confidential information about your child which is requested to be disclosed

Having Parental Responsibility also includes the following: 

  • naming your child and agreeing to any change of your child’s name;
  • applying for a passport for your child;
  • accompanying your child outside of the UK and agreeing to your child’s emigration
  • being responsible for your child’s property, for instance if your child inherits property at an early age;
  • appointing a guardian for your child
Do all mothers have Parental Responsibility?

In Northern Ireland, every mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for their child.

Do all fathers have Parental Responsibility?

Fathers in Northern Ireland are often not aware that they do not necessarily have automatic Parental Responsibility over their child.

A father who is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth will have automatic Parental Responsibility, as will a father who adopts a child.

How can I acquire Parental Responsibility for my child?

If you are a father who falls outside the above categories, you  can legally acquire Parental Responsibility after the birth of your child in a number of ways, for instance:

  • If your child was born after 1st December 2003, you acquire Parental Responsibility if your name has been put on your child’s birth certificate.
  • If you and the child’s mother enter a Parental Responsibility Agreement
  • If the Court makes a Parental Responsibility Orderin your favour

If the Court makes an order for the child to reside with the father, he will obtain Parental Responsibility by virtue of that order.

A stepfather may also acquire Parental Responsibility by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

What happens to Parental Responsibility if parents separate?

Both parents may continue to exercise Parental Responsibility following separation and are entitled to be involved in decisions about their children’s upbringing.

Sometimes parents with Parental Responsibility can disagree about how these rights are exercised.  If they cannot resolve this disagreement, they may apply to the Court which will decide the issue on the basis of what it considers to be the child’s best interests.

If you would like further information on Parental Responsibility, please feel free to email us here or leave your comments below

Father’s Rights

fathersrightsnew

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.