The current COVID-19 Pandemic is placing additional pressures and stresses on separated families.
During this uncertain time, it is imperative that parents place the best interests of their children ahead of conflict with their former spouse. A lot of children may experience anxiety about the changing world we are living in and heightened conflict between parents can increase their anxiety.
It is imperative for parents to continue to facilitate time between children and their parents pursuant to parenting orders.
If changeovers are required to take place at school or at various locations associated with extracurricular activities, parents should be working together to find a temporary alternative location, that complies with the social distancing guidelines and restrictions that are in place at the relevant time.
If face-to-face time cannot be achieved because of closed borders or either the children or the parents have contracted COVID-19 or have come into contact with someone with a confirmed case or required to be in self-isolation, then parents should be using other communication methods such as video calls to enable children to regularly communicate with the other parent.
In these uncertain times parents should, if safe to do so, talk with the other parent about their concerns surrounding COVID-19 and try to reach an agreement for temporary changes to the current orders. If an agreement can be reached, parents should record the agreement in writing, which includes text message, email or via a communication app. Consent Orders can be entered into to reflect the varied arrangements if parents require more certainty at this time.
Where no agreement can be reached to alter the current arrangements, parents need to ensure their children are safe and seek assistance through lawyers. Family Dispute Resolution is available to help parties reach an agreement to alter arrangements.
In the event agreements can still not be reached or there are real safety concerns for children, urgent proceedings can be commenced with the Court.
Parents are strongly encouraged to do all they can to comply with the spirit of their current orders to facilitate a relationship with both parents. If contravention proceedings become necessary, the Court will have regard to the current situation to determine whether the parent not complying with orders has acted reasonably.
If you have concerns about the facilitation of parenting arrangements during the COVID-19 Pandemic, our family law team is here to help navigate parents through this uncertain time.