The Coronavirus has resulted in uncertainty surrounding parenting arrangements as parents and carers are left grappling with the need to follow social distancing guidelines whilst adhering to Court Orders.
The current situation is highly stressful for both parents and children as many parents are now working from home and home schooling their children, whilst others are faced with the challenges of having been made redundant and are faced with the unexpected reduction in income.
During these trying times, we remind you that the child’s best interest is and always will be the Court’s paramount consideration and this includes the establishment and maintenance of a meaningful relationship with both parties.
On 26 March 2020, the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, The Honourable William Alstergren issued a media release on navigating parenting arrangements during the Coronavirus. We highlight some key points below:
- Court Orders and the Coronavirus
If you have parenting Orders sealed by the Court, pending the making of a social isolation order, the Coronavirus cannot be used as a reason to stop your child from spending time with the other parent and contravene/breach Orders unless there is a genuine concern as to risk of harm.
In circumstances where you are the primary carer and the child is to spend time with a parent who is living in another State whose borders are currently closed, this would constitute a reasonable excuse for withholding the child. However, should you find yourself in such a position, you should arrange for a different means of communication such as increased Facetime calls.
- A social isolation order has been made by the government, now what?
Should a social isolation order be in existence, then you may be faced with the scenario of the child having to live with one parent. In these circumstances, should you be unable to facilitate time with the other parent, it is important to ensure that you have a legitimate reason to do so. The Court will not look favourably on a party using the Coronavirus as a vehicle to contravene Court Orders.
During these testing times it is important that you communicate with the other party and keep them informed as to any changes that may need to be made to Court Orders in light of the Coronavirus, unless you have orders that prohibit direct communication.
During these uncertain times, remember:
1. The Coronavirus pandemic is resulting in uncertainty for everyone, maintaining a clear line of communication with the other party is vital.
2. Be informed as to the Government’s health updates.
3. Document any changes to parenting orders in writing (you can send a text or email to the other party expressing your concerns and possible solutions).
The Honourable Will Alstergren issued a media release which can be found here