FAMILY & CHILD LAW COMMITTEE GUIDELINES ON ACCESS DURING COVID-19
Excerpt from the Law Society President’s Bulletin:
Family law, by its very nature, is stressful for couples whose relationship has broken down. This stress is exacerbated exponentially in the current climate of Covid-19.
A number of issues have arisen and the Family & Child Law Committee wishes to provide some guidelines to practitioners and parents who are encountering difficulties at the moment. Practitioners will appreciate the following guidelines are intended to constitute best practice guidelines rather than specific client advice:
- It is important that common sense prevails in relation to access, in the current climate.
- Parents must be vigilant to ensure they communicate positively with each other and make sure that they keep each other updated regarding the health of the child/children and their own health.
- If there is a Court Order in place, this should be complied with to the greatest degree possible in the circumstances.
- If there is no Court Order in place and an arrangement has been working between the parents, this should continue, if possible.
- The health and safety of children and family (especially the elderly, grandparents and those with an underlying medical condition) must be a priority. There should be no contact with grandparents and any person with an underlying medical condition. If one parent is living with his/her parents every effort should be made to ensure the grandparents are not put at risk, even if it means access has to be varied or suspended for the duration of the current health crisis.
- If a child has a compromised immune system, the health and safety of the child has to take precedence and all measures must be taken to protect the child. The best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration.
- Parents should both engage in social distancing and abide by the rules concerning non-interaction with third parties and be able to give assurances in this regard.
- If access cannot take place (for any of the reasons set out above) parents should set up a system of liberal contact – Telephone/Skype/Facetime/ WhatsApp – and allow the children to have extensive contact with the other parent.
- Innovative ways of keeping up regular contact using technology and other imaginative ways of communicating with children should be suggested by both parents and practitioners.
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