The UK is in its third national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and families of separated parents remain uncertain about whether their children are allowed to move between households during this time, if changes need to be made to the terms of any existing child arrangements orders, and what the latest guidance is surrounding support bubbles. Claire Porter, Senior Associate in the family team at SAS Daniels LLP, highlights the latest guidance with regards to child arrangements and support bubbles in this blog.
“Children of separated parents can continue to move freely between the homes of both parents without breaking lockdown rules”. On 24 March 2020, the President of the Family Division issued this guidance to separated parents, making it clear that their children can still move between households but that does not mean they must do so.
The parents therefore must make a sensible assessment of the circumstances including the child’s current health, the risk of infection and the vulnerability of members of both households. He did warn, however, that if one party unilaterally changes the terms of an existing child arrangements order, a court may retrospectively 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 of the family.
It was further confirmed by the Ministry of Justice in October 2020 that:
- A child in quarantine may still move between houses of their separated parents;
- Parents in quarantine or self-isolation may still leave home for handover to the other parent; and
- Children may still visit or stay with a parent that is self-isolating.
Support and childcare bubbles remain part of the current lockdown restrictions. The advice states as follows:
- Support bubbles allow single adults or single parents of children who are under 18 to form a support bubble with another household.
- Childcare bubbles allow families with children under 14 (or vulnerable adults) to form a childcare bubble with another household for informal, such as unpaid and unregistered, childcare that can take place in either or both of their homes.
It is always important to continue to check the publication of ongoing guidance in respect of lockdown restrictions as the landscape frequently changes and is likely to continue to do so for some time. Please click here to see the latest Government guidance.