Parenting Orders during COVID-19. What happens if compliance becomes difficult?
We’re in unprecedented times and this is affecting a number of family law matters, including Parenting Orders. On 26 March 2020, the Chief Judge of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia His Honourable Justice William Alstergren provided a media release together with a radio interview in relation to parenting matters in the midst of this coronavirus.
“Best interests of the child” remains the primary focus
In a nutshell, the Chief Judge noted that in these unprecedented times parents need to continue to act in the best interests of children and ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child is uppermost in their minds.
Complying with Parenting Orders during COVID-19
Parents are still required to comply with Parenting Orders of the court and ensure that they are facilitating the child’s time with both parents.
If parents have Parenting Orders which have been impacted by the pandemic, for example, the forced shutdown of schools, state borders or supervised contact centres, they need to communicate with each other and reach a practical solution to resolve these difficulties if it is safe to do so.
Any interim agreement that can be reached between the parties will need to be in writing, either by text message, email etc.
If Consent Orders are reached or varied, an application to the court can be filed electronically. Hall Payne Lawyers are able to assist you with such an application to the court, even during the coronavirus pandemic
Ultimately, it is essential that if parents are unable to strictly comply with their current Parenting Orders and alternate arrangements are made, these alternatives are in the best interest of the children and they follow the spirit or purpose of the orders.
Parents have an obligation to act reasonably
Regardless of whether we are in a health pandemic or in ordinary times, parents who have Parenting Orders are required to act reasonably.
To act reasonably or to have a reasonable excuse for not complying with court orders is a matter which will be considered by the court (pursuant to section 70NAE of the Family Law Act 1975).
For example, in a situation where changeover occurs at the school and the schools remain closed, altering the changeover location to say a McDonald’s carpark near the school or at a midway point between the parents’ residences would be a reasonable excuse for not strictly complying with the changeover location contained in the Parenting Order.
Legal Aid Queensland – useful tips during COVID-19
Legal Aid Queensland has also provided 10 useful tips for parents who have separated during COVID-19. Among those useful tips are:
- Stay Healthy – Reduce the risk of spreading the virus by educating your children on social distancing and hand hygiene.
- Adapt – Adapt to changes which might need to take place with respect to how, when or the duration your children are in your care. If your time with your children is impacted, try to seek make-up time from your former partner to use at a more appropriate or suitable time.
- Be Open – Be frank with your former partner if you have concerns regarding the safety of your children and what each of you will do in your respective households to limit the spread of the virus. More importantly, try to reach an agreement as to the steps that will take place if your child is displaying the symptoms.
- Focus on solutions – During this time courts will be increasingly limited with their time. If an alternative solution can be agreed to, for example, FaceTime or Skype then parties can avoid the use of dispute resolution services.
Legal advice and assistance continues during COVID-19
We continue to provide our client services during the coronavirus outbreak.
Most of our teams have now returned to their respective offices with others remaining fully equipped to work remotely, where necessary.
You can contact us by phone or email to arrange your consultation; either face-to-face at one of our offices, by telephone or by videoconference consultation.
Phone: 1800 659 114
This article relates to Australian law; either at a State or Federal level.
The information contained on this site is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of such information. Appropriate professional advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact Hall Payne Lawyers.