Home About Us What's On Photos Covid-19  News Extra Contact Us Links

Children must come first


The recent easing of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions has made life easier, but there are still huge complications for inter-personal relationships within split households, warns a family law specialist.

Laura Martin, Head of Family Law at award-winning law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP, says the issue of contact arrangements for children of separated or divorced parents remains particularly difficult.

Now Laura and her Family Law team at Blanchards Bailey’s head office in Blandford, Dorset have put together a guide for parents using some of the most frequently asked questions from the past two months.

Laura, who is also an accredited legal mediator specialising in family law, says: “Whatever the circumstances, the children must come first.

“It is imperative that their welfare is the main consideration – and this theme runs throughout our advice.”

With arrangements that have been agreed at Court and where there is a Court Order in place the current guidance states that where parents or someone with parental responsibility do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes to continue existing contact arrangements.

That does not mean that children must be moved between households. Parents are advised to exercise their parental responsibility and follow the Court Order where it is safe to do so.

Laura said: “For example, if a child has been unwell or will be in contact with someone who has been showing symptoms of Covid-19, it may not be safe to move them between households until those symptoms have abated.”

The Blanchards Bailey team also stresses that a younger child should not make the decision on whether to see a non-resident parent as that is just too big a responsibility for them.

However, teenagers may decide that they do not want to see their other parent and their wishes and feelings should be considered when a final decision by the parents is made.

Also, if it is not safe for direct contact to take place then other methods of facilitating contact, such as Facetime, Skype or Zoom etc, should be utilised.

The advice from Blanchards Bailey is to set regular times to Facetime or phone the other parent. Young children may not want to stay on the call for long as it is not the same as physically being together, but the other parent could read a story or a chapter of a book or something similar to maintain the relationship.

One of the most contentious current issues is that of an ex-partner not agreeing with proposed alternate contact arrangements.

Laura said: “Relations between you and your ex-partner may be strained, but now more than ever it is important that you attempt to communicate in a positive way for the benefit of your shared child(ren).

“Children will likely be feeling sad and confused at not seeing both parents. Talk to your ex-partner calmly and try to understand that everyone will be feeling emotional at this time.

“If there is a Court Order in place, then this should be followed where safe to do so.  If you feel that it is not safe for a child to have contact with their other parent, then it is sensible to take legal advice before suspending direct contact. In any event, it is important that arrangements are reviewed on a regular basis.”

Anyone with questions or concerns about maintaining contact arrangements in difficult circumstances should contact Blanchards Bailey’s Family Law team to discuss on 01258 459361.

Laura, who joined Blanchards Bailey in 2004, qualified as a Law Society Accredited Family Mediator last year, meaning she is among an exclusive group of specialists who must be consulted before any family proceedings go to Court.


FAMILY LAW SPECIALIST: Laura Martin, Head of Family Law at Blanchards Bailey LLP