YOUR OBLIGATIONS UNDER PARENTING ORDERS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The restrictions imposed by the Government and the need to ensure that children and family members are not exposed to risk of COVID-19 virus have placed a significant burden and worry on all parents.
In addition, parents whose children are the subject of Parenting Orders have the significant worry about how to be safe, compliant with Government restrictions and compliant with their obligations under family law Orders.
Each and every matter is different and one family’s circumstances will never exactly match that of another. This is not new and is, in fact, what the Courts and Solicitors who practice in this area appreciate and are adept at dealing with.
First and foremost, the primary consideration is of course the best interests of children which includes ensuring that they are safe and not exposed to unacceptable risk of harm.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there appears to be a greater likelihood that parents will be faced with situations that make compliance with Orders difficult, or even impossible. Schools, day care centres and contact centres may be closed. Interstate travel for a child’s time with a parent who lives interstate may be problematic. There may be the concern that a parent or other family member has been exposed to the virus and could possibly pose a risk of transmission to others.
If possible, communicate with the other parent, even if by email, SMS text or some such other platform. A good flow of information is likely to reduce uncertainty, enhance ‘co-parenting’ and ultimately, reduce conflict.
Try to think of practical solutions. If a location for changeover is no longer available, try to think of a suitable alternate. If one parent is self-isolating as a precaution, try to accommodate different dates for their time with the children. Remember, a parent’s time with the children is not just for that parent’s benefit – it is ultimately for the benefit of the children.
If you are able to reach an agreement on alternate arrangements, confirm that agreement with each other by email, SMS text or some such other written format. Doing so will again add certainty, which often helps reduce conflict.
If time with the other parent is missed, consider a proposal for make-up time , with dates to be discussed and determined when restrictions and the health concerns have eased.
If you are having difficulties discussing issues with the other parent, consider seeking the assistance of a mediator or a Solicitor. A skilled family law Solicitor should work with you to find and achieve solutions. Mediations can be convened urgently if a matter is pressing.
In some matters, it may be necessary to file an urgent Application with the Court. The Family Law Courts have procedures in place for matters that require urgent determinations.
Never hesitate to seek the assistance or advice from a Solicitor with the requisite skill and experience in family law. Seeking assistance does not immediately propel you into further conflict. Sound, pragmatic advice is often found to be a comfort to parents unsure as to what steps to take and often, a Solicitor can assist in resolving the issue/s without you ever having to darken the steps of a Family Law Court.