Following the introduction of local protection areas across Scotland (Tiers 0-4), The Lord President, Scotland’s most senior judge, issued further guidance for parents and carers who share the care of their child(ren) and where residence, contact or another issue relating to a parental right or responsibility is regulated by court order.
In general terms, the guidance has not changed. Parents and carers should be complying with court orders unless there are exceptional circumstances to justify non-compliance. The travel required to implement shared parenting is allowed regardless of the local protection area in which you or your co-parent live.
Whilst court orders should be followed, parents can of course reach alternative agreements between themselves for a short period of time. For example parents and carers may have altered the arrangements to reduce long periods of travel or to extend the duration of contact to reduce the frequency of the handovers. These agreements should ideally be recorded in writing such as in a note, email or text message.
It is of course inevitable that some parents and carers will not be able to agree about what is in their child(ren)’s best interests. The guidance provides that where one parent or carer does not comply with a court order, they will have to be able to justify their actions when the matter comes before a sheriff, at a later date, based on the circumstances at the time of the alleged failure to comply.
There is also an expectation that some other form of contact, such as FaceTime, WhatsApp or Skype should take place if direct contact is not going ahead.
In short, court orders should be followed where they can. There may be circumstances when it cannot take place, due for example to a parent or other household member having symptoms of Covid-19. If that occurs then parents and carers are encouraged to make safe alternative arrangements.
Above all, do what is in your child(ren)’s best interests. Work together and communicate as best as you can to avoid disputes.
If you need advice about this, or any other Family Law matter, please contact a member of the Blackadders Family Law team who would be happy to assist.
Blair Duncan, Solicitor
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