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In this blog I will deal with the issue of those parents who can’t agree on any aspect of parenting and whose parenting skills are negligible to non-existent. These parents look for any opportunity to interfere with the children’s relationship with the other parent.
They are serial non-compliers with Court orders and may have may been taken back to Court on multiple occasions and even may have had their child or children removed from their care. If that parent sees an opportunity to retain or withhold a child at the conclusion of contact time, they will take it masking their reasoning with a thin COVID19 veil.
The decision is a serious one. The consequences can be equally serious. If a parent breaches a Court Order and they do not have a reasonable excuse, they can face a change of Court orders whereby who the child lives with can be altered. They may face other penalties both relating to their parenting role but also financial. The Family Courts are open for business which means that they will deal with the most urgent cases and those cases involving children will be considered urgent (ahead of monetary matters).
If you have genuine concerns about the habits and choices being made in the other parent’s house, ensure that before you demand their compliance with COVID19 recommendations, that you too are adhering to the most recent government recommendations whether it be complying with stay at home, self-isolation or social distancing and similar.
Consider setting out in detail in writing to the other parent what you and your household is doing to ensure compliance and reference the government, WHO, and CMO processes and procedures. Ask them what measures they have committed to in their household and it is not untoward to ask them who are the other members of their family, whether others are visiting the household, what measures are being done to ensure social isolation.
With blended families, children habitually travel between households and with that transfer, the chance for cross infection, if COVID19 is present, is high. What agreements do you have about assessing the health of those transferring between households, what information sharing about health do you currently share and what can you agree to share considering the current crisis?
Share the temperature readings of children on a daily basis, ensure social isolation is agreed to, ensure that there is an agreement to prevent others do not visit whilst the children are in the house, ensure there is agreement about disinfecting and hand-washing, and agree that children do not go out of the house to accompany you unnecessarily and that you do not take the children to see others who are vulnerable.
If you cannot get voluntary buy in, ensure that you have a back up plan such as an offer to mediate. At the moment legal and mediation services are readily available albeit in remote mode. Technologies are being utilized to ensure that these services will be available for the duration of the current crisis.
Do not try and battle on alone if you are not reaching agreements. Obtain advice as to when you can withhold a child and not comply with orders as this should only ever occur as a last resort. Think about getting legal advice at the right time rather than worrying about whether or not you are doing the right thing.
The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation you must contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers. The contents of this blog are relevant as at 6 April 2020. We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family’s situation.
Accredited Family Law Specialist, Principal of Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers, Nationally Accredited Specialist