Family Law and COVID-19

Parenting Arrangements – Frequently Asked Questions

This is an unprecedented time in all of our lives and important to know your rights and obligations when it comes to Family Law and navigating shared parenting. Here are some common questions community members have been asking us about Family Law issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My ex-partner and I share custody of our children. Can I keep the children with me?

  • The guidance that we have from the Courts however, indicates that there is still an expectation that people follow Court Orders wherever possible and where it is safe to do so. There are exceptions for scenarios such as where a health professional directs you and the children to go into isolation r reveal being banned.
  • You will not be breaching lockdown laws if you are transferring children between homes in accordance with a Court Order.
  • Current Court directions have indicated that parents who unreasonably withhold their children during the COVID-19 period will not be looked upon favourably by the Courts.
  • Make sure you get legal advice if you need to make any change to avoid any detrimental impact
  • Please note that for emergency matters, the Courts are still offering a reduced service so if you think that the other parent is not acting reasonably, there are legal steps that can be taken and temporary Court Orders can be made.
  • It is important to remember that parenting Orders are intended to give parents a set of rules to follow when you can’t agree.  You are still allowed to depart from Court Orders with both parents’ permission.

My ex partner is refusing to let our children spend time with me as he feels that my job places me at risk of contracting COVID-19.  We only have informal care arrangements, what can I do?

  • Some occupations such as front line health care workers are undeniably at greater risk at this time.
  • If your children have any underlying health concerns or the other parent lives with elderly relatives for example, it may be reasonable to agree that continuing with the parenting arrangements currently in place, places the children or other family members at risk, in which case it may be necessary to depart from the arrangements entirely on a temporary basis.
  • Parents should be continuing to make all efforts for their children to spend time with their other parent in the absence of medical advice.  If you have received such medical advice you should share this with the other parent and attempt to resolve the issue.
  • If you are unable to resolve the issue, then you can make contact with the Family Relationship Advice line on 1800 050 321 who can suggest a service in your local area to assist you.

A person from work has tested positive to COVID-19, I am therefore required to self isolate for 14 days.  What does that mean for my children’s arrangements?

  • You should follow the advice of the Australian Government Department of Health. You should stay home and call 1300 651 160 if in Victoria to arrange testing for yourself. Depending on when your children were last in your care, and who else is available to care for them, will determine what needs to happen with their care arrangements.
  • Any directives given by the Federal Government will override any Family Court Orders for the required periods of isolation.

The government has said that children need to attend school from home wherever possible in Term 2.  My ex partner is a paramedic, however I work in marketing and am able to work from home.  We usually has 50/50 care of the Children.  What can I do now that he is expected to work and can’t home school the kids?

  • If one parent has no option but to go to work outside of the home, it is sensible for the children to remain with the other parent (who may be working from home) during the day to allow for them to be cared for if they are small, or to attend school remotely if they are older.
  • If both parents work outside of the home, then schools have made arrangements for children to be able to attend there, and child care centres remain open and paid for by the government at present.
  • In separated families, parents should not be sending children to school simply because it’s ‘their time’ if the other parent is working from home and able to care for them. The government instructions currently say that children are only to be sent to school where neither parent can care for them at home.

Most important things you need to know:

  • if you have court orders, you must continue to follow them unless you have a reasonable excuse not to.
  • Any directives given by the Federal Government will override any Family Court Orders for the required periods of isolation.
  • everyone must follow laws and public health guidelines
  • you should try to work through any changes with the other parent and come up with an agreement, if that is safe for you and the children.

 

Useful Resources:

Victoria Legal Aid

Family Court of Australia

Law Council of Australia