11th September, 2020
What impact do the rules on quarantine after travelling abroad have on contact arrangements with children?
When a parent has travelled abroad with their children or children have visited any family member living abroad, they must comply with the Government quarantine rules when returning to the UK.
The rules state that when a UK resident is arriving in the UK from a country that is not on the exempt list, covered by the travel corridor exemption or common travel area, then that person will need to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. A fine may be imposed if the rules are not adhered to.
Self-isolation will need to be in one place and contact with other people within the 14 days should be limited to only those who they were travelling with. The place chosen to self-isolate must not be changed except in very limited circumstances. Such circumstances include where children need to move between homes to comply with an agreement or Child Arrangement Order which regulates when and where the children spend their time.
Accordingly, if children are required to self-isolate following a trip abroad to a non-exempt country then they can still stay at the other parent’s home if this has been ordered by the Court or has been previously agreed. This does not necessarily mean the children must move between homes and the parents will need to make an assessment of the circumstances, to include the children’s health, risk of infection and other vulnerable persons in the households. If contact is not taking place ‘in person’ then alternative arrangements should be agreed to maintain contact in some form, for instance via Facetime/Skype etc.
The decision to travel abroad with children in itself may be contentious and it should be discussed and agreed with all those who share parental responsibility for the children. If it is likely that the children will be required to self-isolate following their return to the UK, this will almost certainly mean disruption to their ordinary routine, to include schooling. This may not be considered to be in their best interests and again, there will need to be assessment of the relevant factors to include the infection rate in the country being visited, before a decision is made.
If an agreement cannot be reached between parents about whether the children should travel abroad or whether the ‘in person’ contact arrangements should be maintained during a period of self-isolation, it is important that legal advice is obtained as early as possible to help assess the best option to resolve the issues.
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