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Separated Parents and Access – Covid-19

The Law Society has issued guidelines for access during Covid-19 in order to bring much needed clarity in light of the restrictions introduced to tackle Covid-19.

The guidelines state that Court Orders in relation to access remain in place and should be complied with to the greatest degree possible. Children are permitted to move between parents’ homes to facilitate access.  In line with the views expressed by the Minister for Justice and Equality last week, the guidelines specifically state that Covid-19 cannot be used as an excuse to ignore a Court Order.  In facilitating access, parents are advised to have a copy of the Court Order granting or setting out the terms of access with them when travelling.

In the absence of a Court Order, parents should continue to implement any existing working arrangement, except in exceptional circumstances.

A “one size fits all” approach is not possible given that family units and circumstances differ. The guidelines specifically provide that common sense must prevail. Parents should both engage in social distancing. The health concerns of parents, their children and extended family must be considered. Also, every effort should be made to ensure that grandparents are not put at risk where one parent of the child/children is living with their parents.

The guidelines acknowledge that every detail of an access order may not be fully implementable but stresses that parents are responsible to make every effort to allow children to have access to the other parent safely.

Where there is a child with a compromised immune system, the guidelines state that the child’s health and safety must take precedence and all measures must be taken to protect the child as the best interests of the child are of paramount consideration.

The guidelines also actively encourage parents to come to their own arrangements for additional or alternative remote contact with children via telephone, Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp, to allow children to have extensive contact with the other parent. It is recommended that parents make note of any such temporary payment by text or email.

In the event of difficulties, mediation is recommended and if unavailable, the assistance of solicitors is recommended to achieve a temporary agreement.

While breach of a Court Order in relation to Access is a very serious matter, such applications to the Court are not generally considered urgent unless in very exceptional circumstances.  If you feel a Court Order has been or is being breached, we recommend that you contact Sellors Solicitors, Limerick for assistance.

If you have any specific queries or require advice/further information in relation to the above and/or the impact of the Covid-19 virus, please contact Dervla Beirne, Solicitor, Keating Connolly Sellors, Solicitors, Limerick;- [email protected]

Published On: April 14, 2020

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