Wow – what a changing world we are all experiencing with the impacts of COVID-19 “Corona” virus on our society.
On top of everything else, corona co-parenting is likely to have a whole set of additional stressors for parents. Whether you have court orders in place, a written parenting plan or an undocumented agreement – the limitations being put in place by our Government during this crazy time is very likely to impact your parenting arrangement.
You may have questions such as:
- Do I have to comply with parenting arrangements or Court orders?
- How do I do changeover if my changeover venue is shut or there is a lock down?
- Are the Courts open and able to progress my matter?
If your parenting arrangement is documented by Court Orders then you are obligated to comply with the orders unless your have a reasonable excuse for breaching them. Serious penalties can apply if you don’t have a reasonable excuse. Given that most consent orders do not contemplate a serious pandemic like we are experiencing, it may well be that over the coming days and weeks, circumstances will arise that satisfy the reasonable excuse criteria. However, the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to limit a child’s relationship with the other parent. We encourage you to get advice from a lawyer practicing in family law before breaching court orders.
Some things that may impact whether a contravention is “reasonable”-
- restrictions put in place in relation to social isolation and freedom of movement, including lock down (whether or not it is considered “essential” to leave your home for a changeover will depend on restrictions put in place and your circumstances);
- restrictions on interstate travel;
- what is in the best interest of your child, including protection of your child’s health and whether your child will be at a significant risk of harm if moved between households (e.g if someone in the other parent’s household has been exposed to or infected with the virus).
If your parenting arrangement is not court ordered then you won’t get in trouble for not adhering to your usual arrangement however keep in mind that children thrive off routine and if they do go an extended period of time not seeing the other parent, it could have a negative impact on them. Your relationship with the other parent may also suffer if you act unreasonably.
Many changeover locations are very likely to be impacted noting closures of public places, sporting venues and the absences of children from school attendance. Try and think of some alternative changeover options. House-to-house changeovers are probably the most suitable provided this is a safe option for you. If in doubt due to safety reasons, changeover close to or within a police station may be suitable but should only be used as a last resort.
The courts are currently open but operating mainly by telephone. This means matters will progress but if the courts are forced to reduce their operations then there may be some back log in the months to come. Serious cases will be prioritised. The Courts have also indicated that they are happy to accept amended orders electronically and if agreement cannot be reached (or it is unsafe to attempt such agreements), they will consider electronic applications for amendments to orders.
In summary, your first port of call should be to try and reach a common-sense agreement with the other parent that is in the best interest of your kids. If this is not possible then you should reach out to your lawyer to discuss the particulars of your matter. Contact us for a telephone consultation today.