It is completely natural to have anxiousness around the safety of children and how to protect them from the impacts of COVID-19, which can be elevated in situations where parents have separated and have parenting orders in place.
Although every family has different circumstances, the Family Court of Australia has recently published guidelines in relation to what the Court expects parents to do in this unusual circumstance. In summary, the main points are as follows: –
- The most imperative matter during this pandemic, and in fact the underlying consideration of the Court itself is ensuring that the parents must always act in the best interests of the children. This includes protecting the children from any risks, as well as promoting positive relationships with the other parent.
- Restrictions implemented may mean that where the orders are not able to be strictly enforced, such as school closures or a parent or child has been exposed to COVID-19. The Court expects parents to act SENSIBLY AND REASONABLY and to work together to find a solution, even if that means operating outside the orders such as a varied changeover location or providing makeup time or additional electronic communication. If in the future, a parent brings about an application to the Court alleging a breach of orders, the Court must consider whether the other parent has acted reasonably or has a reasonable excuse. It for this reason essential to obtain legal advice prior to breaching Court orders.
- If parents working together agree on arrangements outside of the Court orders, even if it is only whilst strict government restrictions are in place it is important that this is in writing, in one way or another. This may be used in the future in a Court application, and will assist the Court in determining the matter.
If an agreement cannot be reached, parties are able to participate in a mediation in order to discuss the matter. Mediation is available through face to face or telephone methods at this time and our office can assist with organising the same.
If no agreement is able to be reached and the matter is urgent or there are safety concerns, the Court is able to accept applications electronically and will deal with the matter via telephone.
If there is concern for your physical safety or your child is in immediate danger, please contact NSW Police on 000.
If there is concern regarding exposure to COVD-19 or you feel unwell, please contact your medical practitioner for assistance.
If you need advice on how COVID-19 and the recent restrictions imposed by Federal and State governments impacts your parenting arrangement, please contact our office on (02) 4655 4224 to discuss your matter with one of our solicitors.