We understand that during these unprecedented times surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, parents are naturally concerned about the safety of their children and how the restrictions will affect their lives and executing parenting orders during COVID-19.
Children benefit from structure, routine and consistency. Therefore, as far as possible, parents should ensure that they continue to comply with parenting orders and parenting agreements, to facilitate time being spent by the children with each parent.
COVID-19 Impact on Parenting Orders:
However, it is understood that every family’s circumstances are different. If parents are unable to comply with Court orders in relation to parenting arrangements, and that failure to comply is out of their control, for instance, the children’s Contact Centre where supervised time/changeover was occurring is no longer operating due to Covid-19, parents must continue to communicate with one another (providing it is safe to do so) to find a workable solution and reach new or revised arrangements. Parents should always consider the safety and best interests of the children when attempting to reach alternate parenting arrangements, as opposed to what suits them personally.
Where parents are successfully able to reach alternate parenting arrangements, this agreement should ideally be written down via text message or email between each other, which will assist all concerned, including the Court, to understand what arrangement is in place.
If the parties are unable to agree to vary the agreement, or if it is unsafe to do so, and one or both parents continue to have real concerns about the children’s safety, the parents are encouraged to attend mediation. If that fails, then they are at liberty to apply to the Court to seek a variation of the orders.
Read more about binding child support agreement.
The Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia remain open to assist parents during this time of crisis and Judges will be prioritising urgent matters. Where there is no agreement, parents should keep the children safe until the dispute resolves. Moreover, during this period of dispute, it is each parent’s responsibility by law, to ensure the children are spending time with their other parent, consistent with the parenting orders or arrangements, such as by Facetime, zoom, Social Media, or if that is not possible, by telephone. This is to ensure the purpose of the orders are respected when considering altering arrangements, and parents act in the best interest of the children at all times.
As the Government has not mandated an absolute lockdown (quarantine), although there is substantial guidance on physical distancing, parents are unlikely to be justified in withholding the children unless complying with specific quarantine rules. When considering whether or not to withhold the children from the other parent, parents must act reasonably. To act reasonably, or to have a reasonable excuse for not complying with Court orders, is a matter that is considered by the Court.
How we can help in parenting matters?
Cornerstone Law Offices remains open to assist Australian families in these challenging times and offers the following services during this time of crisis:
- Provide advice to parents and/or carers regarding parenting arrangements.
- Engage in negotiations/mediation to attempt to reach new or revised parenting arrangements.
- Formalising new or varied parenting agreements by way of consent orders and filing them with the Court.
- Appear on behalf of parents and/or carers in parenting matters currently before the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.