Parenting arrangements during COVID-19
The phrase ‘unprecedented’ has been used consistently in the recent weeks and this is particularly true for Family Law in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As Australia’s policies continue to evolve each week, many separated parents who have children moving from one household to another are facing increasing confusion.
The Court has recognised that parents are facing challenges at this time and the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Chief Justice Alstergren has issued a statement acknowledging the impact that the pandemic has had on parents and parenting arrangements.
In summary, Alstergren CJ has reiterated:
- The welfare and best interests of children remain paramount.
- Where there are existing parenting Orders, parents must follow them subject to government policy and unless the parties can agree on alternate arrangements.
- The Court acknowledges that there may be situations that arise ‘that make strict compliance with current court orders very difficult, if not, impossible’.
- Parents are encouraged to communicate about orders and discuss any potential variations to ensure that appropriate social distancing measures are taken, or to reduce any risk to the children generally when they are transitioning between households.
- In circumstances where Orders cannot be strictly adhered to, parents should ensure that the ‘spirit’ of the Orders are respected and that each parent should continue to have some contact with the children such as by videoconferencing, social media or telephone.
At this stage, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advised that ‘stay at home’ laws do not apply to families that are separated across households.
Whilst the government continues to escalate measures to protect the public from COVID-19, the Courts have assured that they will continue to perform their duties during this time of crisis to support the community.
If your parenting arrangements are being impacted by COVID-19 or you have concerns about your children moving between households, it is important you obtain specialist advice from a Family Lawyer to help you navigate these uncertain times.