Parenting Plans and COVID-19
The Family and Federal Circuit Courts have considered how the current Coronavirus Pandemic is impacting on all Australian parents, and particularly those who have Parenting Orders. Consistent with the Family Law Act, the Courts are maintaining that the best interests of the children are still the primary concern but such best interests must be consistent with health advice. Given these highly unusual global circumstances, there may be a situation where complete compliance with Court Orders may be difficult or, in some cases, impossible which may be due to the closure of borders or schools. It may also be the case where a parent, a child or someone in close contact with the child has been exposed to Covid‑19 such that a parent may be concerned about the safety of the child moving from their home to the other parent’s home.
The Family Courts are currently liaising with Government authorities to introduce exemptions for cross‑border movement enabling parents to comply with Court Orders where it is safe to do so. In these circumstances, you will be required to provide the Court Order to border officials in addition to your photographic identification.
Another instance is where parties may be in self‑isolation or a household member may have COVID-19, the Courts have insisted that parents must act reasonably and have a reasonable excuse for not complying with any Court Orders. In some instances, the Court are prioritising urgent parenting matters with most hearings being done by telephone or video conferencing. If there are situations that arise where strict compliance is difficult, it is strongly recommended that all parents ensure that the spirit of the Orders are respected when considering and discussing alternate arrangements for the children and that they act in the best interests of the children.
Changes to Arrangements
You should solidify any negotiated new parenting arrangements in writing, even if it is by way of text or email and particularly if it is just a variation of parenting arrangements for a short time. This will assist the Court if later Court proceedings are commenced alleging a contravention of current Orders.
If the parties reach an agreement to enter into new Consent Orders, you may wish to file an Application to vary the current Parenting Orders.
For further advice in respect to parenting matters, please contact our experienced family lawyers in Cairns on 07 4052 0790.