LegalReader.com  ·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

How Does COVID-19 Impact Your Parenting Orders?


— June 18, 2020

We are mindful that for many Australians this is a tough time, with the implications of COVID-19 visible through the land, superannuation, and businesses.


COVID-19, the illness caused by the Coronavirus, has had a huge effect on public services in these ever-changing times.

COVID-19 has caused much confusion and collective anxiety. One concern that many parents may have is what to do if COVID-19 affects their ability to comply with court parenting orders; particularly as a result of the progressive shutdown and restriction of movement that Australians face.

As more is learned about COVID-19 Pandemic, we expect more guidance. Let’s begin the discussion with Family Lawyers Brisbane.

Family law courts: 

At this moment, the federal government is committed to holding the family law courts open, with significant changes in the administration of justice and the health and safety practices of government. Efforts demand that the telecommunications systems be used for administrative, transitional, and divorce cases to be handled in this way.

Modern technology is used to conduct conferences including Child Inclusive Conferences, Family Study Interviews, and Alternative Conflict Resolution. In those cases where court attendance is considered acceptable, then the court has fantastic starting times during the day and requires no more than eight people in the courtroom at the same time.

We adhere to the continuously changing rules and directions issued by the Federal Court and the Court of Family.

As normal we prefer to use the Court as a final resort. They seek to resolve disputes by arbitration, mediation, and family dispute resolution.

Existing parental orders: 

Orders remain in full effect under the Family Law Act. With school holidays beginning early, both parents and schools can have issues not returning to normal in two weeks.

Alternative schooling is expected to become at least in the short term the new norm for the future. Parents may have different views on issues such as ‘social distancing’ and good hygiene and homeschooling.

Graphic of man and woman sitting in different rooms, separated by a wall; graphic by Mohamed Hassan, via Pixabay.com.
Graphic of man and woman sitting in different rooms, separated by a wall; graphic by Mohamed Hassan, via Pixabay.com.

Typical places can be closed for the changeover. It locks any adjacent states and territories. Many issues will occur because they could not have foreseen the current circumstances when orders were made.

Parents may consider refusing to comply with an order because of their assumption that the other parent will not provide appropriate treatment for the health or education of the child, or because they believe that the child may be unwell or infectious and therefore should be kept away from the other parent.

A party may have only a reasonable reason, in very restricted circumstances, to contravene a court order, and serious consequences may follow. If you are considering moving away from a court order, or if the other party insists on moving away from an order, you should get legal advice.

If ordinary parenting activities cannot be maintained or need to be changed, then certain issues should be passed on to the other parent focused on the best interests of the child. Communication and compassion will be more important than ever in these extraordinary times.

It’s typically not easy to deal with a family law problem, whether it’s divorce, custody, or help, and it certainly gets even more complicated in the face of a pandemic that has suddenly changed life as we know.

FAMILY COURT AND FEDERAL CIRCUIT COURT:

As they continue to negotiate COVID-19, the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court periodically provide reports and directions to lawyers. Let’s get in touch with Divorce Lawyers Brisbane.

To date, the following steps have been enforced by both courts: 

  • All courtrooms will be limited to a maximum of 8 individuals and matters will be specified for no more than 1.5 hours.
  • All applications for single divorce where children under the age of 18 have children would require telephone attendance. When parties or attorneys are expected to appear in person instead of by telephone, then the face-to-face protocol must apply. The face-to-face policy requires all face-to-face interactions to be carried out according to social distancing.
  • All Conciliation Conferences, Case Review Conferences, and ADR activities shall be performed by telephone or video. Final cases that are considered to be of lower importance may be sent to an ADR occurrence, and the trial may otherwise be adjourned to a date to be notified.
  • All Child Dispute Conferences shall be held by phone or video.
  • All current orders for Child Inclusive Conferences must be issued as CDCs, subject to the decisions of the Judge or Senior Registrar. Given the face-to-face communication aspect, judges are strongly encouraged to order CDCs rather than CICs, and CICs are required to be ordered only if there is an immediate need for a Family Specialist to see the children. The Face-to-Face protocol must apply where CICs are requested.
  • All Child Sensitive Services shall be administered by telephone, except for meetings with children held by a face-to-face procedure.
  • All family report interviews shall be conducted by telephone or video, excluding children’s interviews that are performed in compliance with the face-to-face protocol.

Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Chief Justice Alstergren has told the public that the courts will remain open throughout COVID-19.

HOW WE CAN SUPPORT: 

We are mindful that for many Australians this is a tough time, with the implications of COVID-19 visible through the land, superannuation, and businesses.

If you are worried about COVID-19 impacting your family law issue, please contact us to discuss your specific circumstances.

Join the conversation!