It seems that everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 as it continues to affect our personal and professional lives. Changes to the family law system mean that many listings have been adjourned, or postponed. The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court are providing regular updates on the rapidly evolving situation and are implementing technology to conduct Court events via telephone and videoconferencing. To assist families in the meantime, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia published a ‘Top 10 guide for separated parents during COVID-19’. The link is here.
The guide may be especially relevant if you have a parenting agreement regulated by Court Order. It states that you must still meet your obligations under those terms unless a reasonable excuse applies. If arrangements become unclear or cannot be met (for example due to quarantine, travel restrictions or because schools close) you should use a common sense approach to find solutions to challenges. If you anticipate a change, give the other parent plenty of notice and an explanation so they also have time to adjust. If you are concerned that you may breach your Court Orders, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Given the changing landscape, school holidays will be very different this term. This may be an opportunity for all parents to discuss or trial alternative arrangements for neutral changeover with appropriate social distancing in preparation of potential school closure. If time arrangements are unable to take place due to a member of the family becoming unwell or self-isolating, there are alternative ways to maintain the connection, for example through Facetime and Skype. If a parent or child does begin to show symptoms, information should be shared honestly and appropriately.
If you are concerned about COVID- 19 and the impact on your family law matter, please contact a member of the Cheney Suthers team. We are still open for business and continuing to advise clients remotely. Please see our recent post on our new appointment protocol.