COVID-19 Parenting Orders
COVID-19 Parenting Orders
COVID-19 is leaving parents who have parenting orders in a difficult situation. With the increasing number of restrictions on our activities and government urging us to remain home, some families are finding that their parenting arrangements may no longer be workable.
Some of the many questions that arise concerning coronavirus and parenting orders include:
- Must I send my child to spend time with the other parent if I am worried that the other person may have COVID-19?
- If the other parent is showing symptoms of COVID-19, do I have to send my child to spend time with them?
- My children and I are living with my elderly parent who suffers from a heart condition and other ailments. I am worried about the children spending time with the other parent who may have some of the CVID-19 symptoms and then putting my parent at risk of infection. Can I withhold the children from spending time with the other parent?
- The contact centre where the children normally visit with the other parent is now closed due to coronavirus. What are my obligations now? Do I have to arrange for time supervised by another adult?
Contact our family lawyers Brisbane and our family lawyers Brisbane Northside for advice about parenting issues, including during COVID-19. We can also assist with you with family law property settlement, spousal maintenance issues and domestic violence issues. For information right now, you are welcome to read on…….
Your general obligation
Generally, regardless of COVID-19 parenting orders impose obligations with which you must comply.
Parents and carers are required to act in the best interests of children, which includes taking steps to ensure their safety and wellbeing. If a situation arises that make complying with court orders difficult or impossible, whether as a result of coronavirus or some other cause, the parents should try to find a practical solution to the problem if it is safe to do that.
Message from the Chief Justice of the Family Court
Chief Justice Alstergen of the Family Courts released a statement in late March 2020 which recognizes that the COVID-19 is having an enormous impact on families and provides some guidance for parents concerned about how they comply with parenting orders during the pandemic.
Here are some of the main points in that message relating to COVID-19 and parenting orders:
- Parents and carers must continue to make decisions which are in the children’s best interest to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
- Parents are expected to comply with Court Orders in relation to parenting arrangements, including making the children available to spend time with each parent as the Court Orders provide.
- If you find yourself in the position where following the Orders to the letter just isn’t possible anymore or you have genuine safety concerns due to either the other parent having COVID-19 or having been exposed to COVID-19:
- If it is safe for you, you should communicate with the other parent about whether it is possible to comply with the Orders and if not, whether you might be able to work out another solution. It is important to approach these discussions sensibly and reasonably and to remember that the other parent may have genuine concerns which need to be addressed. This may be a risk of infection for an elderly parent or vulnerable family member living with a parent.
- If you do reach an agreement, remember to get it in writing where possible! This will include via email, WhatsApp or text. The Orders apply unless you both agree to a different arrangement in writing. You may later need to be able to show evidence of what was agreed.
- If in doubt about how COVID-19 impacts your parenting obligations, get advice. There are dispute resolution services to assist you in finding a temporary arrangement which works for everyone, community legal advice services which operate by phone, and family lawyers happy to assist remotely by telephone or videoconference. At LGM Family Law, we’re still open!
- What if you can’t agree? If negotiations aren’t safe for you or if you are just unable to agree, then the children are to be kept safe until arrangements can be resolved. You must also be sure to maintain the children’s relationship with the other parent during COVID-19 in a safe way, and as closely to the Orders as you can without putting yourself or the children at risk of harm. You can rely on technology here – use social media and videoconferencing to keep the children in contact with the other parent, and don’t forget that telephone calls are also an option.
- If you cannot agree with the other parent and continue to have real concerns, you can apply to the Court electronically by efiling an Application.
- Always remember to act reasonably. The Court will look to whether you have acted reasonably and whether you have a reasonable excuse for not complying with the Orders.
- Where strict compliance with parenting orders is difficult or impossible due to COVID-19 related issues, you should ensure that the spirit of the orders are observed when seeking to make alternative arrangements with the other parent.
- If you have any immediate concerns about your physical safety or the physical safety of the children or there is family violence against either you or the children, do not hesitate to contact Police for assistance.
Breaching parenting orders
If you fail to comply with parenting orders, the other parent may bring an application in the family courts for contravention of orders.
The court accepts reasonable excuses for contravention of court orders where you can show:
The Family Courts are is still open and if you need to make application to the court, the court will still hear the matter to ensure the safety of yourself and your children. However, depending upon the urgency of a matter, your hearing may be adjourned or heard by telephone during COVID-19.
Remember that your safety and the safety of your children is paramount and that you have to make decisions in your children’s best interests.
Contact our family lawyers Brisbane and our family lawyers Brisbane Northside for advice about any area of family law, including parenting issues during COVID-19. Our goal is to assist our clients to reach agreement with their former partner without going to Court. If however court action is necessary, we are ready to represent you effectively at Court. Ph. 07 3506 3651
The information set out in this blog is not a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you obtain advice tailored to your particular circumstances from LGM family lawyers Brisbane.