Coronavirus is hitting the headlines across the world and has now been upgraded to pandemic status by the World Health Organisation. Understandably many are concerned about the potential risk to their children and families. With the Easter and May half term holiday period approaching disputes may arise on the issue of holiday travel, particularly to places badly affected by coronavirus.
Many separated parents have pre-existing court orders or other agreements in place for forthcoming holidays with children. Disputes are arising between separated parents about whether children should be taken abroad during this uncertain time.
Existing Child Arrangement orders can be breached where there is a reasonable excuse not to follow it, although the breach of such orders has serious implications and decisions should be taken with the benefit of independent legal advice. Urgent applications can be made to the court to change (vary) or review orders for holiday contact.
When considering these types of disputes the Court will follow the principles set out in the Children Act 1989 and the paramount consideration of the court will be the welfare of the child. In considering the child’s best interests the court will have regard to a welfare checklist and apply this to every case. Each case will be dealt with on its own particular facts and circumstances.
The court are likely to consider whether the child has any underlying health conditions, the severity of any outbreak in a particular area and importantly the current advice from the foreign office, and other expert agencies. The court will balance these, and other relevant factors in deciding what is in the child’s best interest.
Where a dispute exists between separated parents, it is important that steps to resolve matters in an amicable way are taken first. Going to court should always be considered a last resort, and child focused discussions between parents and Mediation should take place before litigation commences.