Scottish family court advice now published

Guidance on compliance with family court orders has now been published on the Scotcourts web site. 

It relates to the current UK guidance during the Coronavirus epidemic that allows children to move between the homes of separated parents unless there is an infection risk.

The guidance from Lord Carloway states that: If there is a court order or formal agreement in place, you should try to stick to the arrangements it sets out unless you and the other person with parental responsibilities and rights agree to vary these. If you have a more informal arrangement with the other parent or carer, you should discuss how best to approach the situation and make a decision on whether a child is to move between homes after a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.”

While suggesting that it is far better for parents to agree on any variation to an existing contact or residence court order, if such changes cannot be agreed:

“Where parents do not agree to vary the arrangements set out in a court order, but one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the court order would be against current Government advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe. If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting on their own in this way are questioned by the other parent in court, the court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the Government guidance in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family.”

The guidance also states that:

Where, either as a result of agreement or as a result of one parent on their own varying the arrangements, a child does not get to spend time with the other parent as set down in the court order, the courts will expect alternative arrangements to be made to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent safely, for example remotely – by Face-Time, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.”

Shared Parenting Scotland welcomes this clarification, and hopes that separated parents will work together at this difficult time.

We have heard this week about various examples of parents helping each other by agreeing who is best placed to look after their children, particularly when one household has grandparents or other vulnerable people and the other is lower risk.  Unfortunately we have also heard about a lot of families where contact has been stopped for no good reason, sometimes to the extent of not even allowing online or phone links with the other parent.