In March, during the days when many of us assumed that COVID-19 restrictions were a temporary situation that would be weathered quickly before returning to normal life, the government announced that, under specially created guidelines, a separated parent would be able to withhold child contact from the other parent if they had legitimate concerns about potential COVID transmission.
In theory, this sounded reasonable enough. However, given that it required the good faith of both parents, it is perhaps also reasonable to suggest that problems should have been foreseeable. Under this COVID-specific piece of family law guidance, parents were given the power to unilaterally “exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe” – effectively, a green light to vary a child arrangements order.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of lockdown measures on 23 March 2020, separated parents and their children were left in the position of trying to negotiate a new and complicated landscape in which they were uncertain of their rights in relation to child visitation and other important matters.
However, even a close reading of the initial lockdown measures failed to provide much in the way of useful clarification. They told us that we were only allowed to leave our homes for the following reasons:
As you can see, this summary of the key points held little to nothing in the way of guidance for what to do in the case of children of separated families who might normally move between homes. Such uncertainty had the potential to prove problematic for the children of separated families, particularly as routine is typically thought to be essential to their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
So, 31 January has come and gone, and the EU Withdrawal Bill has now passed into law. If you thought this would put an end to all talks of messy divorce, think again.
Yes, the UK's decision to end our relationship with Europe and to instead embark on the separation process of Brexit has many implications for family law, not least – although most ironically – within the pertinent area of cross-border divorce.
‘If I had my way, I'd make A do X and B do Y…’ has long been a treatment proffered by layperson pundits across the land, whether discussing politics in the pub or the outcomes of legal proceedings during a dinner party.
However, a man from Kansas, USA, recently sought to convert this sort of sentiment into action when he asked a court to let him engage his ex-wife in sword-to-sword combat in order to resolve their embittered and long-standing divorce arguments.
London has long been the capital of so-called 'divorce tourism'. In most cases this is because women with cross-jurisdictional interests who are getting divorced from their husbands believe that the English and Welsh family law courts are likely to award them a more favourable financial settlement than in most other jurisdictions while also offering greater rights in relation to their children.
This background helps explain why during the summer of 2019, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein of Jordan made a number of applications before the High Court of England and Wales in relation to herself and her children. And now, Princess Haya has returned to the High Court for the latest hearing in the child law case relating to her children and her estranged husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.