Coronavirus and contacts with a child – that is, about the messages of the Ministry of Justice that do not correspond to reality.

What is the impact of coronavirus on contacts with a child? The Ministry of Justice issued a special announcement:

“The Ministry of Justice informs that all orders issued by the courts on contact with children by parents who live separately remain in force.

Due to the emerging questions and doubts as to the implementation of personal contacts with minor children during the COVID-19 pandemic by separated parents, the Ministry of Justice emphasizes that all court decisions in this regard are in force. Both final and non-final, but immediately enforceable, issued under the security procedure remain in force.

Failure to implement these provisions may lead to the initiation of appropriate proceedings, and then ordering the payment of a specific sum of money pursuant to the provisions of Art. 59815, art. 59816 and art. 59822 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Refusal to execute a court decision may only result from prohibitions resulting from the quarantine applied.

Communication and Promotion Office Ministry of Justice”

A few days ago, the Ministry of Justice issued a communiqué on contacts with children by parents who live separately. What is the impact of coronavirus on contacts with a child?

This announcement caused quite a stir among my clients, who for four weeks have been penally complying with all the restrictions imposed – most of them have ceased to implement these contacts, or have introduced other methods than provided for by court provisions – methods of their implementation.

As a rule, I agree with the content of the communication. All court decisionsin the field of contacts between parents or, for example, grandparents with children (grandchildren) – both the final and non-final ones are enforceable. However, the legal enforceability of the order has nothing to do with the actual feasibility, which in most cases is currently impossible.I am not talking about the parent’s reluctance to make contact, I am talking about objective reasons that make it impossible to make contact.

I have a client in the course of a divorce whose “still” husband lives several hundred kilometers from her and her children ‘s place of residence. Until now, pursuant to a court decision, contacts were alternated every other weekend – once a month, the mother traveled with the children to the father’s place of residence for the entire weekend,and once a month the father would come to the children’s home also for the weekend. How to maintain such contacts during an epidemic, with all these travel restrictions. In a situation where the visiting parent does not even have the opportunity to eat dinner in a restaurant after a few hours’ car journey, not to mention the accommodation.

coronavirus and contacts with a child

Another example – a client after cancer treatment. Mother of two children. Admittedly, my father lives nearby and could come and help, but he works in a grocery store every day – he meets a huge number of people, each of whom may be sick, without even knowing it. Put your health and life at risk by consistently implementing the adjudicated contacts?

What is to be done by a father who so far has had contacts outside the child’s place of residence, but is not allowed to take the child home. She lives with three other students in two rooms. Usually he would take the child to the cinema, for “balls”, to the playground. Even walking in the woods is now forbidden. (I’m not talking about the legality of the ban, but about the actual fines issued).

Finally, a client who lives with a small child and two elderly parents, suffering from the recently “fashionable” – comorbidities. Since the first case of COVID -19 in Poland was discovered, she has barricaded herself at homeand avoids contact as much as possible, trembling for the life and health of his parents. On Saturday morning, she called in tears that the ex-partner wanted contact with the child because he had read on the Internet that he had such a right and was threatening with fines.

These are just a few of the problems my clients call about. I translate and calm down, although it was much easier to explain and calm down in front of the aforementioned, in my opinion, completely wrong message of the Ministry of Justice. It is not about questioning decisions of family courts. They are and will be feasible, however, the manner of their implementation is currently determined by the situation in the country – restrictions in movement, closing cultural, educational, sports and recreational facilities, bans on entering the forest, park, beach, and finally orders to stay at home and limit contacts personal. So it can be said that the coronavirus affects contacts with the child.

The contacts between children and their parents should definitely take place – let’s advise our clients to find alternative ways of doing them – let these contacts take place via ZOOM, Skype, WhatsUp, or other video calling tools. Let the children watch movies, play games, do their homework remotely with their parents! Let us look for solutions instead of threatening with penalties. Already enough things keep us awake at night – let’s not add any more problems to each other.

Let us take into account that in family matters the most important thing is the best interests of the child. Currently, the most important thing is to keep our kids healthy and this should be a priority in the implementation of parent-child contacts.

I am involved in many matters of contacts based on experience, I know that the key to success is such a structuring of the contact schedule thatit was tailored to the needs and capabilities of the parties involved. If the schedule is compatible with the functioning of children and parents and meets their subjective needs, then its implementation is not problematic.When deciding on contacts, no court took into account such special and exceptional situations. We have had an actual (though not legal) state of emergency for several weeks. The provisions for “ordinary times” do not apply to “extraordinary times” and no ministerial communication will change this.

As a rule, I do not advise submitting applications for changing the way of making contacts. Though it may be necessary at times. We assume that the situation is transitory, so it does not seem advisable to flood the courts with applications that will probably be considered after the crisis is resolved.However, let us be guided by the best interests of the child and approach the matter “in life”.

I suggest to the Ministry of Justice a bit more reflection before publishing further announcements – coronavirus and contacts with children is a complicated topic. In the current reality, these most enforceable court decisions usually cannot be enforced. Scaring citizens with financial consequences for complying with the introduced restrictions on rights and freedoms is, to say the least, not serious. Make sure your message is consistent: “Let’s stay home!”

Finally, one more remark – obvious to lawyers, not necessarily to citizens – about the legitimacy of suspending contacts or changing the way they are performed will be judged by an independent and independent court, not an official of the Ministry of Justice.

Lawyer Aleksandra Tabędzka



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