In these ever changing times, COVID-19 also known as Coronavirus is having a significant impact upon public services. This includes the operation of the Court and the family law system. The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court have provided guidance that, where possible, Court events are to take place by telephone or videoconferencing if the facilities exist. We expect further guidance as more is known about the COVID- 19 Pandemic. How is COVID-19 affecting your Parenting Orders? See below.
The Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia has recently published a top 10 guide for separated parents during COVID-19. This includes the impact that it may have on parenting orders or court proceedings.
The guidance notes that if your parenting matters are regulated by Court Order, you must still meet your obligations under those terms unless a reasonable excuse applies. If arrangements become unclear or cannot be met (e.g. quarantine, travel restrictions, or because schools close) use common sense to find solutions to challenges. If you anticipate a change, give the other parent plenty of notice and explanations so they have time to adjust.
If schools are closed and changeover normally occurs after and at school or at 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.
Unfortunately sporting activities or activities parents plan 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, find other ways to maintain the connection including digital communications.
Of course, follow government guidelines in terms of limiting exposure to the virus and if your child is showing any symptoms, information should be shared with the other party and as applicable agree on an appropriate response.
The Family Law Section further advised that it is important to try and engage openly and honestly with the other parent about your worries and if there has been a risk of exposure to the virus, be honest about that.
Watts McCray Lawyers continue to be able to advise our existing clients and any new clients experiencing family law issues by telephone, and arrangements can also be put in place for video conferencing as appropriate. Please see our recent blog Watts McCray addresses the challenges of COVID-19 to see the changes we have implemented.
For more helpful links and practical advice, see: