caring single dad with child who is ill on a contact weekend, touching her forehead for fever while on the phone

What should you do if your child is ill on a contact weekend? Should they still go to the other parent, or should they stay where they are?

The answer to this question is slightly different dependent upon whether or not there is a Court Order in place which specifies the child arrangements.

What should you do if you have a Court order?

In the event that there is a Court Order, there is an expectation that the Court Order should be complied with unless there are very good reasons why not.

Failure to comply with a Court Order could lead to an application for enforcement (see later article) and it will then be incumbent upon the parent who failed to make the child available to justify by way of defence that there was good reason.

What should you do if you don’t have a Court order?

In circumstances where arrangements have been put into place by agreement, there is not the same imperative as with a Court Order, however, many of the issues (which I set out below) arise in either circumstance.

There is no specific regulation that governs a situation where contact does not occur due to illness, other than the issue of enforcement in regards to a Court Order. There are no specific rules or regulations which govern the arrangements when a child is ill, when they are due to visit the other parent by reason of a contact weekend or holiday.

What should you do if your child is ill on a contact weekend?

In the first instance, there is no reason why they should not attend for contact with the other parent, unless they are too ill to leave home (which is dealt with below).

There is no specific reason or requirement for one parent to have to be the one that always deals with illness; in other words, only giving the child to the other parent in circumstances where they are well. For example, if a child has a cold and the other parent says they do not want the child for that weekend because they are unwell and seeks a variation to the following weekend when they are feeling better.

Ultimately, it is part of the parenting experience to have to deal with and manage a child who has a cold, sniffles and is feeling under the weather.

What if your child is seriously ill on contact weekend?

Clearly if the child is very ill then the situation is very different. If the child is, for example, too ill to leave the home, then it would be not in the child’s best interest to force them to go and have contact with the other parent.

The question then of variation or amendment of the due contact weekend is one for negotiation and debate as there is again no specific reason why only one parent has to deal with a child’s serious illness whilst the other is not impacted by the child’s illness consequently contact may or may not occur.

It is, of course, hoped that this will be a relatively rare and unusual set of circumstances as we are only really talking about a situation where a child is too ill to leave the house at all.

What if your child has a health condition?

Of course, the situation can be much more complex and require much greater thought and consideration in circumstances where unfortunately there is a child who has or suffers from significant health issues on a regular basis.

This in itself can obviously impact upon the suitability of regularity, frequency and type of contact that takes place, as it is important that the child’s best interest comes first. That is of paramount concern to the Court and it would certainly be reasonable to expect that in circumstances where a child may be suffering a medical condition, that both parents fully understand and are capable of providing the necessary healthcare which the child requires.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.

The next article in the series will address the question, “do I have to provide school updates to the other parent?”

If you would like to discuss the different types of legal proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.