Parenting Orders and COVID-19
What does it mean for me and my family?
These are challenging times for everyone, and it may be made more uncertain with matters concerning children.
If you have Parenting Orders (formal Orders made by a court), or agreement, it is our advice that you still meet your obligations and requirements in accordance with those Orders or agreements, unless there is a reasonable excuse to not comply.
The Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia have provided a guide for parents in these uncertain and challenging times. We have summarised these suggestions for you.
It is difficult to determine if COVID-19 is a ‘reasonable excuse’ and it remains to be seen whether the Courts have or will determine if non compliance with Orders (whether that be not delivering children to spend time with the other parent or not returning the children to the other) will be held as a reasonable excuse for the action and breach of the Orders.
In circumstances where it is unclear if the Orders or agreement can be given effect to and complied with, try your best to use common sense to achieve a resolution. These are trying times, with possibilities of quarantines, school closures, boarder closures and travel restrictions, so be prepared to be able to adapt to change and to do so with your children’s interests being your primary concern.
If you anticipate that a change is likely and that you may not be able to comply with an order or agreement, give the other party plenty of notice, an explanation of what has occurred and what it is that you propose to do, to ensure that the Orders or agreement will be able to be met in some way. It may mean that if time with arrangements cannot be met that other arrangements are put in place, for example FaceTime or other electronic communication so that the relationship can continue.
It may be difficult to have these discussions, but try to be open and to consider the other party’s position (or your position if you are responding to a change). It may mean that your respective households will have to work together to deal with school closures, working from home scenarios or adapt to a changing location for changeover so that social distancing measures are being adhered to.
Communication is key. Try to communicate with the other parent about any concerns that you have in a respectful manner. Discussions will undoubtedly circle around how to ensure that your children’s health and your own health will be managed and to limit any potential exposure to the virus. Be honest with not only your own health and any symptoms that you may suffer, but more importantly that of your children. Share these concerns and potential health issues (whether you think they are important or not) as soon as practicably possible, and try to communicate and reach a decisions as to how the concerns and issues can be dealt with.
Be the one to set the example of how you wish the other parent to deal and communicate regarding these issues. Be considerate in dealing with the other parent’s concerns. Assist the other parent when and if you are able to, and if those arrangements are to a benefit for the children.
This is stressful time for our community. Ask for help if you need it. If you can, be accommodating to the other parent if they reach out for help. Try to be understanding. This is a serious health challenge and no one knows what the correct answer is in dealing with parenting matters. This is a difficult time and will not be resolved quickly.
Ultimately, remember you are setting an example for you children and positive encounters in this time will be noticed.
If you need any assistance or advice, please contact our Family Law Principal, Chelsea Schaefer. (02) 6772 4899 or firstname.lastname@example.org