The Novel Coronavirus or Covid-19 is causing chaos and disruption to all aspects of daily life in Australia, and around the world. It is in these uncertain times that the public often need advice and guidance on issues which may once have seemed straightforward or automatic.
One of the areas where we have seen the biggest concern from the community is shared parenting of children by separated parents. Our Family Law Team has recently had an influx of calls from concerned parents, wondering what their rights and obligations are when it comes to shared parenting during this pandemic.
Whether you have been managing your parenting arrangement between yourselves, whether you are engaged in a parenting dispute before the Court or whether you already have Parenting Orders, right now, confusion is rife for all parents.
We know that no two families are the same, but in all the confusion, there are some key principles that all parents should keep in mind:
- You should always act in the best interests of the child. This is your primary obligation at all times.
- Open and respectful communication between parents will make the situation easier for both the parents and the children.
- Your "usual" arrangements might not work right now and it is OK to find short term solutions to get through this pandemic. If you do reach a short term alternate arrangement, ensure it is in writing.
- This will be a difficult and uncertain time for your child. Stability and time with each parent will help them through. Conflict or not seeing a parent will only make things more difficult for the child.
- This is not an opportunity to "get back" at the other parent or use Covid-19 as an excuse to withhold a child from their other parent. Ask yourself "Am I acting reasonably?".
- If you are in dispute with the other parent about the impacts of Covid-19, there are many options available to assist parents such as advice lines, mediation and ultimately, the Courts are and will continue to operate.
All in all, the advice from the Government and medical experts is that this pandemic will pass and things will return to normal. Your goal should be to get your child through this pandemic safely and with as much stability as possible. As always, the best things for children are routine and stability, so as much as you can, focus on the needs and best interests of your child. Not everyone will be able to put aside their differences, but the more you can, the better off your child will be.
The Family Court is well aware of the difficulties parents and children will face during this pandemic. The Chief Justice of the Family Court, The Honourable Will Alstergren has released a media statement with some general advice and guidance for parents. This advice is general in nature and we appreciate that every family is different.
Follow this link for access to the media release: http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/news/mr260320
For more detailed advice, our family team, Jodie Jamieson and Daniel Stephenson are working with new and existing clients to guide them through this confusing and uncertain time. They are able to provide detailed advice, specific to your circumstances. If you would like to get some advice about your specific situation, please do not hesitate to contact us on 9523 6111.