How does Covid-19 impact my parenting order?

parenting order and covid-19

Covid-19 – Family Law

We have had a number enquires about the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on current parenting orders.  These questions are:

  • do I need to comply with orders?
  • the other parent is refusing to return the children – what can I do?
  • our supervised contact centre has closed, what do we do now?

In March 2020 the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia issued a joint statement about how the Court expects parents to manage their current arrangements.  The key points are summarised here.

  1. The Court recognises that every family’s circumstances are different and that these are unprecedented times.
  2. The Family Law Act requires that parents and carers act in the best interests of their children, including ensuring that children are safe. Despite orders which are made by the Court – the day to day care of children rests with their parents.
  3. Parents are expected to comply with Court orders. This includes facilitating time being spent with each parent pursuant to those orders.
  4. Where strict compliance is impossible due to the unusual circumstances now faced by parents due to Covid-19, parents are encouraged to make appropriate arrangements between themselves. Parents are encouraged, where it is safe to do so, to communicate and find a practical solution to any difficulties encountered.
  5. If there are exposure issues relating to Covid-19 parents are expected to act sensibly and omply is Government directives issued by the Prime Minister and relevant Health Department. Each parent should always consider the safety and best interests of the child, but also appreciate the concerns of the other parent when attempting to reach new or revised arrangements.
  6. If an agreement can be reached – record it in writing via email, text or other messenger service so that each party knows the new agreement and can comply with it.
  7. If you need further assistance to reach an agreement you can contact the Family Relationships Advice Line or arrange a mediation to work out more detailed agreements.
  8. Where an agreement can be reached, consent orders can be lodged online. There are special arrangements in place for the electronic signing of these documents.
  9. If no agreement can be reached the priority is the safety and wellbeing of the children. The Court is still available to manage disputes between parents who are unable to reach an agreement.
  10. Parents are encouraged to act reasonably and the Court notes that contravention proceedings can issue if parents are unreasonably withholding children or failing to comply with Orders. The Court has stated that even where orders cannot be strictly adhered to that parents ensure that the purpose and the spirit of the orders is respected and that they act in the best interests of the children.

Particularly with regard to point 10 above – the Courts are swiftly making recovery orders for children where a parent unreasonably withholds children.  If you are considering withholding children be warned that the Court will return children if they are unreasonably withheld and penalties may apply.  If the other parent is withholding the children from you citing Covid-19 as the reason or has threatened to do so, talk to us about your options.

If you are not sure about how your parenting order is impacted by Covid-19 or are concerned about how a parent is acting, contact us for advice.

At this time lawyers remain an essential service pursuant to the Queensland Health directives.  This means that it is okay for you to attend at our office when required. When you attend at our office for these engagements we practice the required social distancing and ensure that our office is cleaned after each engagement.  We also space out any appointments we have to limit contact with others.

These in person appointments are limited. Our preferred approach however is to meet with you via Zoom or other video conferencing to talk with you about your family law matter.  We have reduced fees available to assist you with obtaining relevant advice for your matter.

If you would like some further information about how we can assist you in how the Covid-19 pandemic may impact your matter, please contact us at 3343 9522 or mail@lifelaw.com.au for an appointment.

The full statement by the Court can be found here:

http://www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/about/news/mr260320

 

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