John Lewis

What does COVID-19 mean for family law parenting arrangements?

girl with outstretched soapy hands

The current COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to make many changes to normal everyday life. But how does it affect family law issues such as court orders or other shared parenting arrangements? In the face of the government imposed lockdown, for instance, parents might be wondering whether the movement of children between households is considered essential travel.

The bottom line is that parents must still comply with court orders and, in the absence of any new agreement, parents must be doing all they can to continue to adhere to the normal arrangements. Moving children between households is still permitted.

Long-distance Travel

If children have to travel long distances, particularly in the instance of a parent who lives interstate and the child travels there for time during the school holidays, this creates some complexity. The other main instance is where either household is placed under quarantine due to an infection or likely exposure. In such cases, the arrangements would need to be altered by necessity.

Court orders can be varied by the consent of the parties, however it is a good idea for separated parents to talk about how living arrangements might be temporarily changed to serve the child’s best interests in the current situation. This is also good advice for parents who have negotiated arrangements without court orders.

The medical advice is telling us to stay at home and limit movement. It would therefore be worthwhile having a conversation about how arrangements could be varied to manage this, including minimising movement. For example, plans where the children usually split the week between household could be re-negotiated for week-about arrangements while the pandemic stretches on.

What Happens in the Case of Quarantine? 

Parents should also pre-empt future possibilities by discussing them in advance. For instance, what happens if a household is forced into quarantine? A good idea is to have an agreement in place to compensate the other party if changes like these are forced. So, if a child is prevented from time with a parent, there is an understanding that time can be made up in the future. Where children are in isolation it is also very important that the parent they are with supports them in having regular contact with the other parent via electronic means, such as video calls.

Parents should also be talking about education, with many schools now asking if children will be opting to learn remotely in the new term (if this is not happening already).

The coronavirus situation is changing life for everyone, giving separated parents much to consider. It is not always easy to negotiate but the current circumstances do provide all parties good reason to come to the table. It is important to get everything in writing for future reference, so email is an effective way to address the situation.

If agreement is not possible, and you have concerns, contact us at Lindbloms to help you navigate these difficult times 8357 7611