I am worried that my abusive ex-partner will use the Coronavirus outbreak to keep the children and not send them home. What should I do?

This is a worrying time and it is normal to feel anxious about your child and how to keep them safe. The pandemic isn’t necessarily a reason to vary contact arrangements unless it is necessary to do so to comply with government and PHE guidance. There are some reasons why it might be sensible to agree a way to amend the arrangements. However, stopping contact without good reasons is unlikely to be looked upon favourably by the courts.

It may help to carefully consider what arrangements would be reasonable to take account of the most up to date government guidance. For example, it would be reasonable to agree that a child should not move from a household where no one has symptoms into a house where someone has symptoms and should be self-isolating with other members of the household. Equally, if someone develops symptoms, everyone in that house at the time should self-isolate together in line with government guidance. Whilst this would be reasonable, an abusive person may use this as an opportunity to control the situation and vary contact arrangements.

If it is safe to do so, you may wish to communicate about suggested options to reduce travel between houses, use of public transport etc. If there is a vulnerable person in one of the households this may also need to be considered. If you can reach an agreement in advance of contact taking place this may reduce the possibility that your ex-partner will take advantage of the situation. Having this in writing may also be helpful should you need to go to court later.

If you are unable to communicate safely you may need to seek legal advice. If possible, try to do this before contact is due to take place.

The following websites may also have some helpful information and resources.

CAFCASS – Child and Family Court Advisory Service
Rights of Women