Enforcement of Child Arrangement Orders and COVID-19

Deborah Marsh Deborah Marsh 25 June 2020

As we see the end of stay-at-home measures, the potential return to pre-COVID-19 child arrangements is likely to cause conflict between separated parents.

Where a parent has stopped contact they may feel the risk of COVID-19 has still not gone away, but for a parent denied interaction, they will want to see routines returning to normal.

Potential transitional measures face increasing the possibility of conflict on both sides.

Deborah Marsh, associate and collaborative lawyer in the Family Law team at Wake Smith discusses Child Arrangements Orders (CAO) and COVID-19.

“Common sense, pragmatism and goodwill have all needed to be applied over the last few months. Where court orders have been in place, parties should have endeavoured to adhere to them as far as is reasonably practicable.

“Whereas before issues might have arose about the late return of a child or last minute changes without good reason, these testing times have brought about different problems.

“Separation can cause high conflict and people caught in disputes, especially around children, can try to leverage situations to suit their goals.

“Unfortunately COVID-19 has been used as an excuse by some to frustrate contact and this will be looked upon dimly should such matters come before the Court.

“Under the current lockdown restrictions, a parent may have made a decision about contact because they believe that to continue with the arrangements would be against the Government’s advice and would expose their child or children, or another member of the household, to risk.

“If you believe your ex-partner has changed the ordered child arrangements unfairly, or hasn’t implemented sufficient alternative methods of contact for you to maintain a relationship with your child, then it is possible to make an enforcement application to the court.

“The family courts are still functioning and are currently dealing with hearings by video or telephone conference.”

Where does COVID-19 sit in the law of the land?

Deborah added: “Usually judges can make reasonable judgement on whether or not a singular event, such as a broken down car, will be a reasonable excuse preventing contact taking place.

“But it is considerably more difficult to assess the impact of the pandemic on contact arrangements, given its continuous and unprecedented impact and individual’s own circumstances.

“COVID-19 has many of the features of a force majeure event; it is an extraordinary event that is beyond the control of the parties but, applications to the Court where child arrangements have been unilaterally altered is specifically provided for in the Family Court’s Guidance (President’s Guidance On Compliance With Child Arrangement Orders).

“Reasonable excuse is where although one parent could comply, they have a good reason, specifically, a "reasonable excuse", for not doing so, such as a child falling ill and being taken to the doctors rather than to the other parent for contact.

“There will still be clear cases where COVID-19 prevents contact – where a child is required to self-isolate due to their own symptoms of COVID-19 or those of a household member. Here, it is not possible for contact to take place whilst complying with the law and the Government Guidance.

“The question to be asked here is whether the parent was able to allow contact to take place, despite COVID-19?

“The Court carries out its full analysis of the particular circumstances of each case and the welfare of that particular child or children.

“Applications can also be made for child arrangement orders where long standing or agreed child arrangements have similarly been unilaterally altered and for those unable to reach an agreement but, where there is no current order to enforce.”

For further advice on COVID-19 and children arrangements call Deborah Marsh at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 266 6660.



June 20221May 20227April 20223March 20223February 20223January 20224December 20214November 20213October 20215September 20216August 20212July 202111June 20218May 20216April 20212March 20219February 20218January 20219December 20208November 202013October 20209September 20208August 20203July 20208June 202016May 202013April 20209March 202016February 20209January 202011December 20199November 20199October 201911September 20197August 20194July 20196May 20198April 20196March 20193February 20195January 20194December 20186November 20185October 20182September 20185August 20184July 20189June 20184May 201810April 20185March 20184February 20184January 20183December 20175November 20178October 20177September 20179August 20175July 20176June 201710May 20176April 20178March 201711February 20177January 201713December 20169November 20167October 201610September 201610August 20166July 20167June 20163May 20162April 20166March 20162February 20164January 20165December 20153November 20155October 20156September 20156August 20157July 20157June 20157May 20156April 20159March 20156February 201510January 20156December 20145November 20144October 20142September 20143May 20144March 20146February 20144January 20142December 20132November 20133September 20134July 20132June 20132May 20133April 20131March 20133February 20133January 20136December 20121November 20123October 20122August 20122July 20128June 20123April 20123March 20121January 20124December 20112November 20111October 20112September 20113August 20113July 20117June 20119May 20117April 20115March 20119February 20118January 20111December 20101October 20102September 20102August 20103July 20106June 20101May 20102April 20106March 20102February 20103January 20102December 20095November 20092October 20092September 20092August 20091July 20095June 20095May 20093April 20093March 20093February 20091January 20092November 20082October 20082September 20081August 20083July 20081January 20082

Featured Articles

Contact us