COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of everyone on a global and unprecedented scale. The impact is particularly stressful for separated parents with co-parenting arrangements during these ever-changing times.
Some COVID-19 issues which may impact parents include:
- The travel restrictions currently in place will impact many families who have Parenting Plans or Parenting Orders in place which involve international or interstate travel;
- Children and parents may be subjected to a quarantine or self-isolation period preventing children from spending time with one parent;
- If children are unable to attend school due to COVID-19 sickness or school closure, who will care for the children?;
- If a parent is unable to care for a child due to COVID-19 sickness, who will care for the child?; and
- Child support payments may be impacted by changes in income.
The above issues are unprecedented, complex and do not form an exhaustive list. The Court requires compliance with Court Orders. A person will be in contravention of a Court Order if they do not follow the Court Order and they have done so without a reasonable excuse.
If that occurs and a parent files a Contravention Application in Court against a parent for non-compliance, the Court may find that there was a reasonable excuse where the contravention was directly due to COVID-19 factors but the application will need to be defended and all issues examined.
It is likely and hoped, that a common sense approach will be adopted during this time by not only the Courts, but equally by the parents involved.
What to do if my family is impacted by COVID-19?
You should always comply with Court Orders and Parenting Plans where possible.
If you are impacted by COVID-19 which prevents you from complying with your Court Order or Parenting Plan, you should raise the issue with the other parent as soon as possible in order reach an alternative arrangement by agreement. Any alternative agreement should be confirmed in writing. If a child’s time with a parent is restricted, makeup time for that parent should be considered, along with extra telephone/video communication.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other party, seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our family lawyers are available to assist.
Never before has communication between parents been more important. The Courts are unlikely to be available to hear every application, even urgent ones. This means parents must try to resolve any dispute between them where possible. This is not always possible however, particularly for those families experiencing domestic and family violence. In those circumstances, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
These are challenging times where patience, understanding and respect are paramount.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 co-parenting issues, or if you are uncertain about your parenting arrangements moving forward, please do not hesitate to contact our family law team for assistance.