Parents who have regular visits with their children or have joint custody may be having some difficulties in the current Covid-19 situation. The normal pattern of visits may have been disrupted and you may need advice on how to deal with any changes.
No specific law has been brought in to deal with these issues but some Courts have been asked to rule on continuing or suspended contact with children. The priority is always to follow the guidelines for society as a whole which means reducing the amount of travelling. The Courts do appear to differ in their interpretation of the rights to visits and shared custody during this time.
In some cases the Courts have agreed with one parent who suspends visits to the other parent even if there is shared custody on the basis that it could prove a health risk to the child and or their immediate family. Where one parent does not have the amount of contact they would normally have they can subsequently apply for a compensatory amount of time. For example, if 3 weekend visits cannot take place this should be compensated once the state of alarm is lifted.
Other Judges have considered that the state of alarm should not disrupt the normal pattern of visits and that this does not pose any risk to the child. It is always preferable to reach agreement but if you cannot do so we can provide advice about your particular circumstances.
A situation which has not yet been considered is where holidays are normally spent with one of the parents in another country. In some cases children may be spending school times with one parent in Spain or the UK and travelling to the other country for visits and contact during the summer holidays. Our recommendation in these circumstances is that parents try and come to an agreement well in advance of the expected visit. It is not yet clear when normal travel can resume and each case is different. Bearing in mind the importance of maintaining the family relationship, and if agreement cannot be reached about a compensatory amount of time to reflect the loss of contact time, we can provide advice and if necessary seek guidance from the authorities and the courts.
The Royal Decree of 16/2020 of 28th April has brought in a special proceeding to deal with matters of contact and custody where there is any conflict. Any application must be entered in the same court that granted the custody and visits and must be made within 3 months from the end of the state of alarm.
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