Covid-19 has created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for many people, and particularly parents. During the Covid-19 climate, depending on circumstances the Courts may in some cases not require strict compliance with Orders.
For parents that already have Court Orders which deal with parenting issues, parents are expected to comply with existing Orders.
If for example you have Orders that provide for a particular drop off an arrangement of the child/children, but the handover place in the Orders is no longer open, you may change the location by agreement to a new handover location.
If schools are closed and changeover normally occurs after and at school or a sporting event, nominate or start planning for another neutral or public location that would be suitable and where social distancing practices can be maintained.
Sporting activities or activities parents planned to do with children during school holidays or weekends are unlikely to now be available. If time arrangements with the other parent or important people cannot occur, parents ought to find other ways to maintain the connection including digital communications.
If you do not have Orders in place, but have an informal agreement about your child/children, provided it is safe to do so, those arrangements should also continue unless you and your former partner/spouse agree on something different.
Try to develop a plan with your former partner/spouse if this can be agreed upon for what you will each do in the event of particular events. What will you do if one parent tests positive for Covid-19? By having a plan in place for contingencies, this may mean less stress for all concerned if such an event occurs.
Aim for consistent rules and routines in all households where possible. You might want to set up a daily video call for the children with the other parent at a set time and have an agreed plan for when the children will do school work.
Try to document any agreed changes in arrangements for the child/children in the short term (whether you have Court Orders or not).
This may involve sending emails or text messages confirming arrangements or having your lawyers document something more formal such as a Parenting Plan or a variation to existing Orders.
Parents must keep in regular contact with one another as changes with Covid-19 can happen frequently.
Follow government guidelines in terms of limiting exposure to the Covid-19 virus and if your child/children is/are showing any symptoms, the information should be shared with the other parent, and as applicable agree on an appropriate response.
If you have fears about your safety or that of your child/children, particularly if there is a history of family violence, seeking support and advice should be a priority. Where there are safety concerns, agreements may not be able to be reached between parents.
If in immediate danger parents ought to contact the Police. If you are concerned about your or your child’s health and wellbeing contact your doctor.
Courts are continuing to hear applications for parenting orders at this time. Our experience is that Courts are prioritizing urgent matters and those that concern the safety of children. Court hearings and events are currently being done by telephone or video-conferencing.
If an application is filed with the Court, some of the matters for consideration will include:-
- Any serious risk factors;
- Major issues in dispute;
- Agreed interim arrangements;
- Whether the parties would benefit from a conference with a Family Consultant or Court Registrar;
- What Orders the Court can make by agreement;
- Is the matter suitable for mediation or alternative dispute resolution.
It is understandable to feel isolated and overwhelmed during this Covid-19 climate. You do not have to deal with this on your own. There are many services available to help you and your children through this time.
More information about Covid-19 is available from various websites:-
Should you require legal advice concerning your child/children and the impact of Covid-19 please contact our Principal Annamaria Marano, accredited specialist in Family Law on 1300 056 674 or after hours 0418643862.
We continue to be able to advise our existing clients, and any new clients experiencing family law and other legal issues by telephone, and arrangements can also be put in place for video conferencing as appropriate.