Parenting Arrangements During COVID-19
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented level of challenge across all spectrums of our daily lives. This is particularly so for those parents and carers subject to parenting orders.
Restrictions put in place by the federal and local governments to help slow the spread of COVID-19 can make compliance more difficult than usual. Border closures throughout Australia have further added complexity.
At all times, parents or carers must act reasonably and in the best interest and safety of the child(ren) involved. To act reasonably, or to have a reasonable excuse for not complying with court orders, such as to protect the health and safety of a person, is a matter that is considered by the court.
More specifically, The Family Court of Australia has issued general guidance for Border Restrictions and Shared Parenting Orders.
In addition the Chief Justice of the Family Court – The Hon Will Alstergren provides some guidance to families coping with COVID-19 and parenting orders on the Family Courts website
Below is an exert from Chief Justice Alstergren’s Media Release issued on March 26, 2020
In the highly unusual circumstances now faced by Australian parents and carers, there may be situations that arise that make strict compliance with current court orders difficult, if not, impossible. This may be caused, for instance, where orders stipulate that contact with a parent occurs at a designated contact centre, which may not currently be operating. Or the “pick up” arrangements of a child may nominate a particular school, and that school is now closed. Many state borders are also closed. In addition, there may be genuine safety issues that have arisen whereby one parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19, and this may restrict the safe movement of a child from one house to another.
As a first step, and only if it is safe to do so, parties should communicate with each other about their ability to comply with current orders and they should attempt to find a practical solution to these difficulties. These should be considered sensibly and reasonably. Each parent should always consider the safety and best interests of the child, but also appreciate the concerns of the other parent when attempting to reach new or revised arrangements. This includes understanding that family members are important to children and the risk of infection to vulnerable members of the child’s family and household should also be considered.
If an agreement can be reached about new parenting arrangements, even if they are to be adjusted for a short period of time, this agreement should ideally be in writing, even if by way of email, text message or WhatsApp between each other. This will be particularly important if there are later family law hearings and will assist all concerned, including the Court, to understand what agreement may have been reached.
Please see the above link for the full Media Release.
Parents are encouraged to communicate with each other directly where it is safe to do so, or with the assistance of a third party, such as a family dispute resolution practitioner or lawyer, about their ability to comply with current orders and attempt to find a practical solution to these difficulties.
Should you require any advice or have a concern regarding a family law matter during COVID-19 please contact Clark Family Lawyers 03 99882387 for a free initial consultation.