COVID-19 has put a strain on many aspects of our daily lives. It has put additional pressure on already difficult situations such as when a parent has visitation rights of his/her children. Apart from the emotional side, there are legal aspects that we shall attempt to give an insight in this short write-up.
The main principle is that all public deeds and court decrees regulating the visitation of minor children are still valid. However, so are the emergency measures that the Government has issued recently. As a consequence, many parents in these unsettling times are preoccupied on how visitation rights and arrangements thereof are to be implemented. If neither parent has been exposed to Covid-19 and both of them are taking the necessary precautions recommended by health authorities, visitation should continue to be exercised between children and their parents. This is being advised in line with a fact sheet issued on Friday 27th March 2020 by the Maltese Government implementing measures for vulnerable people. Amongst the exemptions to the measures implemented one finds ‘exercising child visitation rights’, which has been categorised as an absolutely essential need.
To be clear, if one of the parents is quarantined and cannot leave the house, then the visitation cannot take place and it is the right of the other parent to object that it takes place. The Courts have always expressed their view that all decisions should be taken in the ultimate interest of the minor child. Therefore, the health concerns of parents for the minor children is an important factor, when deciding whether the visitation is to continue as normal or should stop and take another form.
If one of the parents is in quarantine and therefore, the visitation cannot take place, this does not mean that the children should be completely cut off. Fortunately we live in a technological world and there can be still contact remotely through face to face web communication. The issue is whether this is enforceable. If the parent wants clarity because he/she is finding difficulty in having a Facetime or Skype call, then one can still apply, if urgent, to the court to get this clarity and have an enforceable decree.
Both parents are encouraged to keep communication open, retain flexibility and work together in this regard. This would aid in keeping the children connected with both parents as well as maintaining their regular routine in a safe manner. In doing so parents are to ensure that the best interest of their children remains their ultimate priority and should avoid putting their children in any danger at all costs.
Dr Malcolm Mifsud Dr. Maria Camilleri
Founding Partner Associate
Sabiex tkun tista’ taccessa dan l-artiklu bil-Malti, aghfas hawn.