In the highly unusual circumstances now faced by Australian parents and carers as a result of COVID-19, there may be situations that arise where strict compliance with current court orders is very difficult, if not, impossible.
It is imperative that parents and carers act in the best interests of their children. This includes ensuring their children’s safety and wellbeing. Caring for and determining the practical day-to-day best interests of a child is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers.
Whilst the Courts make orders that are determined to be in the best interests of a child, caring for and determining the practical day-to-day best interests of a child is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers.
As a first step, and only if it is safe to do so, parties should communicate with each other about their ability to comply with current orders and they should attempt to find a practical solution to these difficulties. These should be considered sensibly and reasonably. Each parent should always consider the safety and best interests of the child, but also appreciate the concerns of the other parent when attempting to reach new or revised arrangements. This includes understanding that family members are important to children and the risk of infection to vulnerable members of the child’s family and household should also be considered.
If an agreement can be reached about new parenting arrangements, even if they are to be adjusted for a short period of time, this agreement should ideally be in writing, even if by way of email, text message or WhatsApp between each other. This will be particularly important if there are later family law hearings and will assist all concerned, to understand what agreement may have been reached.
If an agreement cannot be reached and you have a genuine safety issue or concern which has arisen whereby one parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19, this may restrict the safe movement of a child from one house to another.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides that a parent who believes on reasonable grounds that certain actions are necessary to protect the health or safety of a child, may do so for a period, not longer than is necessary.
If it is not safe for children to return to the other parent, parents should ensure that each parent or carer continues to have some contact with the children such as videoconferencing, social media, or telephone.
At The Family Lawyer, we can help you in all aspects of family law matters. For a free 15 minutes consultation contact The Family Lawyer by calling (03) 8657 3751 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org