Following lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic family lawyers have seen an increase, not only in divorce but in parental child abduction and other disputes involving children.
Conflicts have arisen where one partner is a national of another country. In these very difficult times the separation from their families and their support has been very hard. Not only separating parents but also those already divorced, have either tried to go back to their home country or have simply made the decision and gone taking their children with them. However, they have failed to seek permission from the other parent or, in some instances, the court before making the move.
In some cases this has been devastating for the other parent who has lost access to their child/children. Although this may only be temporary due to travel restrictions, it may also be the case that the parent decides that having made the move overseas they will remain. In this case it becomes far more serious.
Another area which is currently causing concern and disagreement between parents involves the COVID-19 vaccine and the possibility that there will be a vaccine suitable for children in the not too distant future. Family lawyers have become aware of an increasing number of enquiries from parents as to what happens if there is disagreement between them on vaccination for their children.
This was brought to light with a recent case, M v H (Private law vaccination)  EWFC 93, where an application was made by the father for a Specific Issue Order in respect of his two young children aged 6 and 4. The father was applying for an Order that his children should be vaccinated in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule. The Mother was opposed to this. Mr Justice MacDonald concluded that it was in the best interests of the children to be vaccinated in this case, citing that the overwhelming medical opinion is that it is in the best interests of otherwise healthy children to be vaccinated in accordance with the schedule recommended by Public Health England.
With both of the above scenarios, if a parent suspects that the other parent may be planning to do this they can take preventative action under the Children Act 1989 by applying for a Prohibited Steps Order or a Specific Issue Order.
Prohibited Steps Orders and Specific Issue Orders can, of course, be utilised in other Children Act matters and if you would like advice on any aspect of Children Act matters or family law telephone 01279 799598 or email
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