Last week, the High Court judgement of NT v LT K (A Child) (Stay of Return Order: Asylum Application) (Contact to a Parent in Self-Isolation) was published.
One of the key issues which the High Court was required to consider was whether a child should spend time with a parent who:
- has recently returned to the UK from a country that does not have the benefit of a travel corridor exemption and is thus currently the subject to the UK’s current quarantine rules; and
- does not live in the same household as the child.
The case concerned a mother who was living in Russia and a child who was living in the UK with his father.
When considering this issue, Mr Darren Howe QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, made it clear that there was a distinction between what the law says when a child is returning to the UK from a country that does not have the benefit of a travel corridor exemption, to that of a parent returning.
A child is returning to the UK from a country that does not have the benefit of a travel corridor exemption.
In these circumstances, Mr Darren Howe QC was clear that the government rules permitted children to move between their parents’ households where they are subject to a “shared custody agreement” even if the child is under an obligation to self-isolate.
A parent returning to the UK from a country that does not have the benefit of a travel corridor exemption
Mr Darren Howe QC considered that it was not as clear cut whether the government rules allowed children to continue to move between their parents’ households in these circumstances.
He noted that it might be possible to argue that there is an exemption to the parent’s requirement to self-isolate from others if there is a legal obligation for the child to spend time with the self-isolating parent (i.e. a child arrangements order). However, he concluded that, in his judgement:
- A court should be cautious about ordering that a child should spend time with a parent who was subject to quarantine restrictions.
- A parent who has a child in their care would have a reasonable excuse for not complying with a pre-existing order requiring the child to spend time with the other parent if that other parent is required to quarantine following a trip abroad.
In reaching these conclusions, Mr Darren Howe QC placed emphasis on the fact that the purpose of the quarantine regulations is to protect others from infection. It was incumbent on any judge to have regard to any harm in which a child may be placed and thus “the court should give effect to the purpose of the regulations and be extremely reluctant to make an order that exposes a child to the risk of contracting Covid-19 when a parent has arrived from a country that does not have the benefit of a travel corridor exemption.”
Should you have any questions regarding the impact of the government’s quarantine rules following a trip abroad to child arrangement orders, please speak with one of our expert family law solicitors.