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Parenting arrangements during a pandemic

Parenting arrangements during a pandemic

Posted On: 19 March

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We are in unchartered waters at present when it comes to dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and managing shared custody, and also wanting to protect your children.

We understand that parents with share parenting arrangements may feel torn between complying with Court Orders and limiting the movement of children,  potentially breaching that Order.

First and foremost, if there are parenting Orders in place, they must be complied with by both parents.

Some common questions raised by our clients have been:

“I do not want my children to travel during the pandemic, what I can I do?”

Existing Orders should contain specific clauses as to any travel with children. Although, it would be very rare that existing Orders would contain clauses for travel during disease outbreaks or pandemics.  If the other parent is wanting to take the child/ren out of the country or to a COVID-19 hotspot, and you have indicated to the other parent that you do not agree, then it may be necessary to seek the Court’s intervention to stop the travel. An easier answer is to check the Australian Government Smart Traveller website which contains the most recent travel alert updates.

“Can I just keep the children during the Coronavirus pandemic?”

As mentioned above, it is very rare that existing Orders would include clauses during a disease outbreak or pandemic.  Therefore, existing Orders do not change during times of emergency. You should pay particular attention to the wording of current Orders. They will state exactly when a child is to live with or spend time with each parent (or other family member) .  In some cases, the Orders may also include provisions for when school is closed (being a non-school day).  If not, we recommend that parents put aside any personal grievances between them and work together amicably to work out the best arrangements for the children, particularly if a child, parent or member of either parent’s household is required to self-isolate.

Parry Coates Family Law believe that parents should work together to have a combined approach to keeping the children away from crowds whilst social distancing and isolation is encouraged by the Government. Such that any unnecessary risks are avoided.

Parents should be aware that Orders are to be complied with subject to a variation of those by agreement between the parents or a further Order of the Court.  Parents should not use this pandemic as an opportunistic moment to withhold the children from spending time with the other parent, especially if Orders are in place for that to occur.   Further, if it is agreed between parents that the children will remain with one parent for the purposes of self-isolation, arrangements should be made for the children to speak with the other parent by telephone or facetime and make-up time should also be considered once the period of self-isolation has passed.

If you need legal advice in relation to parenting issues, our solicitors here at Parry Coates Family Law are available to assist.  Please contact our office on (07) 3532 3826 to arrange a fixed fee consultation with one of our solicitors.

In light of the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we feel it is important to communicate to you the steps we are taking to continue providing you with our service, whilst maintaining the health and safety of clients and team members.

Our aim is that the high level of service for our clients continues to be provided with no, or minimal disruption. We have the technology and capability to work remotely and we have the business continuity planning in place to ensure your needs will be addressed, and our normal operations will continue.

Our staff will be working remotely from this week, however, we are contactable by phone, email and both Zoom and Skype video communications.

If your matter is currently before the Courts, we need to advise you that the Courts have made immediate and significant changes to court operations.  This includes:

Trials or hearings that can appropriately be done by telephone will be.

  • High volume lists that are required to be conducted in person will be staggered to reduce the number of people in attendance.
  • The number of people to attend a courtroom at any one time (other than the judge and their support staff) will be limited to 8 people (‘8 person in-court cap’).
  • Additional people involved in matters must remain outside the courtroom.
  • All court based events, or attendances of the judiciary or court representatives at external events, will be cancelled or postponed, or conducted by telephone or video conference if possible.
  • The work conducted by Registrars and the Courts’ Child Dispute Service’s staff is currently under review.

In most cases, this means that your matter will be adjourned to a later date or will be conducted via telephone.  We will advise you of those arrangements once they are to hand.

Another measure that we are undertaking as part of our commitment to the health and safety of our clients, community and team is that we will be looking to switch physical meetings to meetings via phone or video-conference where it is practicable to do so.

If you have an upcoming meeting with one of our solicitors, we may reach out and ask to hold the meeting via phone or video conference.

We are closely monitoring the official advice from the State and Federal Governments and will continue to adapt our practices to ensure that we are doing our part to minimise risks to the community. We would like to reiterate once again that our priority is to continue providing excellent service and advice to assist you in any way that we can through this time.

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