“Can I still see my kids during coronavirus?”- Your parenting plan and COVID-19
Multiple impacts on parenting plans due to coronavirus
People who have recently spent months or sometimes years negotiating with their former partner to create a parenting plan or parenting orders, are now faced with another huge hurdle – the coronavirus pandemic.
Government imposed lockdowns, social distancing and isolation rules have drastically changed our way of life. Many people have lost their job. Some people are working overtime to keep up with the medical and other needs of others.
The Queensland and Victorian borders are closed. So, what does this mean for your parenting plan or parenting orders?
Guidance issued by Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court have published a media release to help legal practitioners and people of Australia understand where they might stand. The gist of it is as follows.
- Parents and carers must act in the best interests of the child, including the child’s safety and wellbeing.
- Parents and carers are expected to comply with court orders in relation to parenting arrangements, including facilitating time being spent with children by each parent or carer.
- Strict compliance with the orders may not be possible, or may be difficult during COVID-19. For example, where a child is to be “picked up” at a park, but the parks are now closed, or where a child is travelling interstate and borders are closed.
- These considerations need to be taken into account, but a reasonable outcome must occur, making use of other practical ways to facilitate the parents and carer’s time with the child or children.
- If an agreement can be reached, then it should be noted in writing and signed by the parties where possible.
- Where no agreement can be reached, your lawyer may be able to discuss the matter with the other party’s lawyer to come up with a practical solution. Alternatively, mediation services are available to assist.
Lessening impact on parenting orders while adhering to social distancing rules
Where parents or carers are already self-isolating, or have lost their job, then it may be appropriate to allow the child or children to continue to move from one household to another.
However, strict compliance with self-isolation rules and social distancing must be adhered to. Where a carer is vulnerable, all parents and carers ought to be ensuring they are applying to have their groceries delivered, and avoiding contact with people outside the household, as much as possible.
This will help to reduce the spread of virus and keep households safe, whilst lessening the impact on the parenting orders.
For more information, please see Knowingly exposing children to risk of coronavirus infection reflects poorly in family law matters.