Many parenting orders put in place by the Family Court may not be able to be strictly complied with during the recent and ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic.
The nature of parenting orders is that they are very prescriptive, specific and strict. Orders may include pick up points, such as schools, shopping centres or contact centres that are now closed, they may involve aged carers who need to be protected, given their vulnerability, to the current crisis, or they may require interstate travel, now impossible due to the closure of state borders. It may also be that a particular parent has had exposure to a confirmed case or is in a job where they have greater exposure to contracting the virus.
What do I do if I feel that I can’t or shouldn’t follow my parenting orders?
The Family Court has issued advice to parents who cannot practically comply with parenting orders already in place or who feel that for the safety of their child, the orders should not be followed at this current time.
The Courts recommendations are that in the first instance if it is practical and safe to do so, parents and carers should attempt to discuss the matter and any potential variations to orders between themselves. Parents and carers have a duty to always act in the best interests and wellbeing of the child, this should, therefore, be the primary focus of discussing any changes to parenting arrangements.
The Court encourages that where some arrangements may not be possible or practical in the current circumstances, the spirit in which the orders were made should be maintained, such as by arranging a different but mutually agreeable pickup point. Where no contact with one parent or carer is possible, for example, due to the closure of state borders, contact should be maintained with the child through video conferencing or similar platforms.
Where an agreement is reached, parents and carers should place the varied agreement in writing and both parties should confirm the new arrangement. This can be done via text message or email or similar. If there is a dispute around arrangements down the track, this record will be important.
Parents and carers can also electronically file consent orders to have these arrangements made into an order by the Court. A judge or registrar can consider and make these orders without requiring the parties to attend court.
How can the Court be of assistance if an agreement cannot be reached?
If an agreement cannot be reached, there are a number of resources available through the Family Court to assist parents and carers in reaching a resolution. The Family Relationships Advice Line can provide assistance. There are Dispute Resolution mechanisms through the Court and lawyers can be used to communicate between the parties. If these mechanisms cannot create an agreement between the parties, then parties can seek a variation of their parenting order through the Court.
How can Andreyev Lawyers help?
We can assist you at any stage of the above process. We are available to assist in negotiating with your ex-partner, filing consent orders to formalise any temporary arrangements which may have been agreed.
We can also assist parties utilising dispute resolution mechanisms offered by the Court as well as seeking a variation of previous parenting orders.
The information contained in this post is current at the date of publishing – 6 April 2020