Parenting Orders & COVID 19

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31-03-2020

This article is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you would like advice on your family law matter please contact us enquiries@freemanfamilylaw.com.au or 03 93264433

As the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak continues and Victorian families attempt to navigate their ‘new normal’, the Family Court of Australia reminds parents that existing orders are to be complied with.

Due to Victoria’s recently implemented stage four shut down measures, family law clients with parenting orders from the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court have expressed concern and confusion about the safety of their children and confusion about how to comply with parenting orders now and in the future. 

Freeman Family Law’s Lauren Croft said that the Family Court and Federal Circuit Courts have released a statement to guide parents during what they recognise to be a challenging time

“Parents must continue to act in the best interests of the child which includes ensuring their safety and wellbeing.” 

“Parents and guardians should be complying with parenting orders provided it is safe for the child to move between houses. The orders made in any matter are in the best interests of the child, however, if an individual within one of the child’s homes has been in contact with COVID-19 then it may not be in that child’s best interests to spend time there in the interim.”

Ms Croft said that “the Court has acknowledged that strict compliance with some orders may not be possible if they stipulate that contact or pick up occur at a location that is no longer operating.”

“Sensible and reasonable alternate arrangements should be made between parents if they’re concerned about their ability to comply with an order.” 

If the loss of work or working from home requirements require any temporary changes to orders or agreements, then the best outcome would be for the parties to agree to those changes amongst themselves.

However, if compromising is proving difficult, you may want to get legal advice from a family lawyer. 

Essential Travel 

In other jurisdictions such as New Zealand where a stage four shut down has been implemented, the High Court has said that travel for the purpose of satisfying parenting orders is considered ‘essential travel.’

“With Victoria progressing to a stage four shut down we believe that our courts would adopt the same approach,” said Ms Croft.

“If a client is concerned we have advised them to print off their orders to keep on them in case checks are implemented in the future.” 

Whilst Victoria and Australia’s shut down laws have not yet reached that point, Ms Croft said it was best to be prepared due to the rapid nature of changing government policy at this time.

“We’re not there yet, but looking at other jurisdictions in other countries, it’s not unforeseeable that these measures could be implemented here too, and soon.”

In New Zealand, the classification of this sort of travel is only essential when both parties live in the same community and restrictions may apply if the child is living in a home where a family member is unwell.

Need Help?

If you need any help understanding an existing Order or Agreement, require advice as a result of changing circumstances, or need any assistance with a family law matter, Freeman Family Law remains open for business.

We have taken strict measures to ensure the health and safety of staff, whilst also ensuring staff are equipped to work from home ensuring all matters can continue to be handled with the same exceptional service you have come to expect from the team at Freeman Family Law.

Read more about our response to COVID-19 here.

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