Going through separation and divorce is stressful enough at the best of times, and with the current health crisis COVID – 19, it can make things even more distressing. How to implement co – parenting arrangements and how to comply with current Parenting Orders are some of the questions that are concerning parents the most at this difficult time.
De Saxe O’Neill Family Lawyers are here to help and guide you through these difficult times. We understand that many separated and separating families are anxious about how to manage children’s arrangement with concerns about the risk of exposure to COVID – 19. Our advice, is to firstly ensure that you and your children stay safe and healthy, and follow the government’s health guidelines to encourage your children to form new routines, practice social distancing and develop good hygiene habits.
Where parenting orders provide for the children to spend time with each of their parents, both parents and the Court presumably thought those orders were, at the time they were made, in the best interests of the children. Children need routines which give them stability as they move between houses, and maintain their relationship with both of their parents. Assuming the child is well, then the child is able to spend time with his/her non-resident parent(s). If the child is unwell, especially with flu-like symptoms similar to COVID – 19, and cannot be moved from house to house, then if possible common sense should apply. The Court is not going to require children to be placed in an unsafe situation.
The Courts expect parties to continue to comply with existing parenting orders and the usual rules of enforcement apply. When it is hard to comply with the orders due to the COVID – 19, an attempt to negotiate is important. The court is encouraging parties to communicate with each other, to discuss their ability to comply with current orders and to try to overcome these difficulties with a practical solution that is sensible and reasonable. The best interests of the child/children involved is still the paramount consideration when negotiating. If parties can come to an agreement, we recommend putting the agreement in writing. Of course it is not always possible to negotiate sensibly with the other parent and that is where we can assist.
If there is a non-compliance with order, and that non-compliance is unreasonable and does not involve safety issues, then you may need to make an urgent application to the Court. The court is still hearing cases as usual, but the hearings are conducted predominantly by telephone based on written material. If necessary a recovery order might be an appropriate remedy, or a contravention application may need to be filed.
If you are a parent, and have concerns about compliance with parenting orders, or coming to a different agreement in light of the current unprecedented COVID – 19 crisis, please contact us on 02 – 9948 3820 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be pleased to assist.