Shared parenting and ensuring children have the opportunity to spend time with both parents after separation can be difficult, especially in situations where supervision of a parent during that time is required.
For children who are spending time with a parent at Contact Centres, social isolation because of Covid-19 virus may have serious consequences on their relationship with that parent. Pursuant to government policy, contact centres have closed. The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia has issued a statement to assist family law practitioners and parents to navigate the problems of supervised contact as a result of closure of Contact Centres. The Chief Justice states:
- In the highly unusual circumstances now faced by Australian parents and carers, there may be situations that arise that make strict compliance with court orders very difficult, if not, impossible. This may be caused, for instance, where orders stipulate that contact with a parent occurs at a designated contact centre, which may not currently be operating. Or, the “pick up” arrangements of a child may nominate a particular school, and that school is now closed. Many state borders are also closed. In addition, there may be genuine safety issues that have arisen whereby one parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19, and this may restrict the safe movement of a child from one house to another.
- 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, including the Court, to understand what agreement may have been reached.
Our family law solicitors are available to assist parents in this very difficult time in circumstances where following Orders of the court is made impractical or impossible by the Covid-19 Pandemic.