Here at M. W. Keller & Son Solicitors LLP, we have received a number of queries in respect of access issues surrounding Custody and Access during the Coronavirus COVID 19 Pandemic. The directions from both the Minister for Justice, Mr Charlie Flanagan T.D. and the President of the District Court, His Honour Judge Colin Daly are extremely clear. Any Court Orders in relation to access must remain in place and should be complied with to the greatest degree possible in the circumstances.

The Law Society of Ireland has published guidelines for access during COVID 19 which provide some excellent advice to assist parents in relation to access, some of which are as follows:

  1. Court Orders in relation to access remain in place and should be complied with to the greatest degree possible in the circumstances. Children are allowed to move between parents’ homes for access. COVID 19 cannot be used as an excuse to ignore a Court Order. Parents are advised to have a copy of the Court Order with them when travelling for access.
  2. If there is no Court Order in place and an arrangement has been working between parents, this should continue, save in exceptional circumstances.
  3. It is important that common sense prevails in relation to access, in the current climate. The very best outcome for children is for parents to contact each other to set out their concerns and to suggest ideas for practical solutions that can be put in place. The health concerns of parents, their children and their extended family need to be considered when sorting out arrangements.
  4. Even if there is a Court Order in being, parents can come to their own arrangements for additional or alternative remote contact, such as telephone, Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp or any such remote contact apps, to allow children to have extensive contact with the other parents and also with extended family. Parents should make a note of this temporary agreement by text or email. These current restrictions mean that the detail of every Access Order may not be fully implementable but the responsibility and expectation of parents is to make every effort to allow children to continue to have access to the other parent in a safe, alternative way.
  5. The health and safety of children and family members (especially the elderly grandparents) must be a priority. If one parent is living with his or her parents, every effort should be made to ensure the grandparents are not put a risk.
  6. Access with parents working in frontline services should continue as normal, except in exceptional circumstances. These parents will, of course, have received advice from their own places of work in relation to contact with their families. This advice should be shared with the other parent and respected by all.
  7. If a child has a compromised immune system, the health and safety of the child have to take precedence and all measures must be taken to protect the child. The best interests of the child must be of paramount consideration.
  8. The Courts are still dealing with urgent cases involving domestic violence and vulnerable people. Applications for breach of access are not generally considered to be urgent but there may be exceptional cases and we can advise you on this. Please contact julie@mwkeller.ie for direct advice.
  9. Additionally, the President of the High Court has stated that a case which does not come into the defined urgent category can be treated as urgent if a good case can be made. Please contact julie@mwkeller.ie for further advice.

The health and safety of the child have to take precedence over all access arrangements while still balancing the child’s right to see his or her parents and these guidelines should be of benefit to all parents. For any further queries on Custody and Access, please contact julie@mwkeller.ie or fill in our contact form here.

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