COVID-19 lockdowns are stressful for many of us and can be especially so for people who are co-parenting under these new and frequently changing circumstances.
At Catherine Henry Lawyers we always seek to support our clients with resources and links to other support organisations to help them to navigate the issue surrounding their legal matter.
The Family Court has produced some fact sheets too.
Court orders are still legally binding on parents. Unless there is a reasonable excuse, parents must meet their obligations. COVID-19 alone is not an excuse to not abide by orders.
COVID-19 can’t be used to take advantage of the other parent or reduce the other parent’s time with the children. Parents need to show they have been actively finding ways to overcome challenges due to COVID-19.
Complying with some elements of court orders is very difficult, if not impossible. For example, children can’t be picked up from school or a contact centre if they are closed. Parents need to find alternative changeover locations.
If you want to change parenting arrangements the Family Court says the change must be in the best interests of the children and agreed by both parents. This includes considering things such as economic hardship and the risk of infection to vulnerable members of the child’s family.
Plan ahead for changing COVID-19 circumstances
If possible, parents should plan ahead to deal with changing COVID-19 situations and avoid conflict in the future. Agree what you will do in these scenarios.
- If one parent is more vulnerable and has a low immune system, has childcare issues or changed work commitments.
- If one parent is working from home and the other is not working at all, is it better to have the child spend time with the non-working parent?
- If a parent gets sick and needs to self-isolate.
- If border closures and restrictions (within states or cities as well as between states) impact parent access.
Creative ways to co-parent during COVID-19
If COVID-19 reduces a parent’s contact with their child Interrelate suggests other ways that a child can connect with their other parent.
- Video chat on Skype, messenger, Zoom and other platforms.
- Record a video message or a book reading and email it or attach it to a text message.
- Send letters, photos, pictures or artwork by email or post.
Where an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) or an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is in place, get legal advice to ensure you are not going to breach the order.
You could use a neutral person assist by being a go-between to receive and pass on communications or ask the Children’s Contact Service (CSS) to supervise a video chat session.
Confirming changes to co-parenting arrangements
Confirm changes to co-parenting arrangements in writing in case the matter later arises in Court. If you can’t sign off on arrangements together, at least establish an email or text trail.
How we can help
Our expert family lawyers can assist with:
- drafting and witnessing new parenting arrangements
- reviewing changed arrangements to ensure they comply with Court orders, ADVOs and AVOs or will be considered reasonable by the Family Court.
If you have an urgent family law matter, please do not hesitate to talk to one of our expert and caring family lawyers about the options available to you. To confidentially discuss your needs call us on 1800 874 949 or fill in the form below, and we will be in touch.