COVID 19 & Compliance with Parenting Orders

Across Australia, the Family Court has made it clear that separated parents should comply with parenting orders during the current COVID 19 pandemic.

In circumstances of non-compliance, the application of “reasonable excuse” will be applied in the usual way and in accordance with legislation and relevant case law.

In simple terms, you should continue to comply with parenting orders where possible to do so.

Unless there are safety issues relevant to the implementation of orders in force, children should continue to move between houses in the usual way and in compliance with the defined terms of the order.

The Family Court is openly encouraging separated parents to negotiate difficulties in a reasonable and child-focussed way.  It is important to remember that your approach to parenthood during these difficult circumstances can be used to support (or harm!) your matter in the medium to long term, as this is a factor to be considered under s60CC of the Family Law Act (and equivalent section of de facto legislation) when making a final parenting order.

For example, you might attempt to work together with your ex-spouse to implement home schooling arrangements that promote consistency and progression of learning.

In our opinion, these difficult times present an opportunity to show that you can be the reasonable parent who, if necessary, can “take the high road” and avoid becoming entrenched in unnecessary dispute.

If there are circumstances that cannot be resolved by way of negotiation, or there are circumstances of risk, then you can still make application to the Family Court for assistance, which might include an application for a recovery order. The application is filed in the usual way, and you can expect your matter to be heard by telephone, rather than in person.

Whilst there may be Government restrictions in place that prevent travel between regions, if your court order requires a degree of travel (and ideally not by aeroplane) then there are specific exemptions to Government restrictions for the purpose of compliance with a parenting order.

If your child is experiencing physical symptoms of ill health, then you should first contact a medical practitioner for medical advice.

In family law matters, if the child is safe to travel then it is also safe for the child to spend time with the other parent. In times such as these, common sense and goodwill are the key to functional co-parenting arrangements.

In the UK family court system, parents are being told to that even if they can’t exercise strict compliance with a court order, they should attempt to comply with the spirit of the order.  For example, if face to face arrangements simply can’t occur, then the relationship between the child and the non-resident parent should be facilitated through other means such as video conference, telephone or other method.

It is important that children should not be placed in an unsafe situation.  Therefore, in cases where time between a child and a parent is subject to supervision for the purpose of protecting the child from family violence or abuse, and the supervisor is no longer available, amended arrangements should be carefully considered with the child’s best interests being the paramount consideration. In such circumstances, we strongly suggest you seek legal advice regarding the options that are available to you.

Children benefit from a routine that provides stability of living arrangements, which includes moving between parents in the usual way and maintaining relationships with all members of their family.

It is with this in mind, that we encourage all separated parents to promote the continuation of safe, but consistent arrangements that reflect orders in force.

If you are uncertain about your current circumstances, or you consider the arrangements currently pose a risk of harm to your child, we suggest you contact us on 9443 1111 for a free 15-minute telephone consultation so we can help you follow the best pathway.

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