How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • Go back-and-forth until satisfied
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Aaron D Your Own Question
Aaron D
Aaron D, Barrister
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 149
Experience:  LLB, BPTC
108775951
Type Your Family Law Question Here...
Aaron D is online now

I have a court order that allows me time with my twin girls

This answer was rated:

I have a court order that allows me time with my twin girls but my ex is refusing to hand them over and using covid19 at the reason. Do I have a case if I take her to court for breaking the order?
JA: What steps have you taken? Have you filed any papers in family court?
Customer: I have an existing Order. I’ve not filed for a new case yet.
JA: Family Court normally sits in a local County and Magistrates' Court. Do you know the location of the court? If not, what county do you live in?
Customer: Is my ex wife breaking the court order by using covid19 as an excuse for keeping the children home with her?
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: ?
JA: What confuses you?
Customer: Are you a bot?

Hello, thank you for your question, I can assist you with this. Please bear with me a moment whilst I write your response.

If you have a Child Arrangements Order and the other parent is not adhering to the terms then they are technically in breach of the order. However; you are able to go agains the terms of a Child Arrangements Order if there is a reasonable excuse. A common reasonable excuse is if there is a safeguarding concern (harm could come to the child).

The Coronavirus is a fairly unprecedented occurrence and the courts have had to grapple with a fairly novel situation. The President of the Family Division issued some guidance on this situation and you can read this for yourself here: https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/.

As you can see from the guidance, parents are being given a lot of discretion. Whilst it is hoped that parents will use their best judgment and only make decisions in the interests of the child; there will inevitably be parents using the situation to their advantage.

In principle, if a parent is stopping contact due to a genuine COVID-19 safeguarding concern then the court is likely to "excuse" this breach. The court is going to be slow to punish a parent who is doing their best for their child.

If you have reason to believe that she is taking advantage of the situation and you think you can persuade the court that this is the case then you could apply to enforce the order.

You use a solicitor to apply for you and you can find a family solicitor here: https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk.

If you want to apply yourself then you can find the form here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-c79-application-related-to-enforcement-of-a-child-arrangement-order.

Try to engage in some dialogue with the other parent if you can first. If they have genuine concerns then try to "think outside the box". Can contact take place via video calls etc instead? Could you go out with the child to the park etc rather than take them home. Court orders are made without the foresight of these types of events so sometimes you have to agree between you different arrangements. So long as you both agree variations that is fine.

I hope this helps, if you can please accept my answer and rate me 5 stars (in the top right of your screen) then Just Answer will credit me for helping you today.

I will remain available for any follow-up questions.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
I understood the concerns of my ex and allowed her to isolate with the children for 8 weeks. Now I feel that as the government have relaxed things slightly that I should be able to have my agreed days back. Michael Gove specifically said we are allowed to swap children between households This is being ignored. I have been patient but now I feel that the order is being completely ignored and that my ex is keeping them from me. She does allow me to visit over the garden fence but still I feel this has now gone on too long. I feel I am being controlled and have had my rights taken away from me

This is addressed in the guidance I sent you. Michael Gove said you are allowed to swap children between households. He - and more importantly the legislation and guidance - doesn't say you must do so.

If you are no longer able to come to sensible arrangements you are entitled to take the matter to court but bear in mind they are going to be somewhat less "strict" about breaches than they usually are.

Have you thought about mediation? There is a special mediation service available just for these circumstances: https://www.nfm.org.uk/new-service-co-parenting-through-the-coronavirus-crisis/

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
Unfortunately my ex wife refuses to mediate. This is how I managed to get my first case through court after she refused me time with my girls the first time. Are you telling me that I have no choice at the moment but to allow her to keep the children until she feels like letting me have them back?

No - I'm saying you have various options e.g. agree something between yourselves; try mediation; leave things as they are or take the matter to court for enforcement.

There's no "magic wand" solution here.

I'm wasn't saying you can't go to court, just don't expect the court to send her to prison or issue a huge fine against her for breach if she says she was stopping contact due to genuine concerns about the safety of your children. The court will do all they can to try and get things back on track if they can as they always try to ensure that contact takes place where it is safe to do so.

Aaron D and 2 other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you