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COVID Series: COVID-19 and the impact on parenting arrangements

Amy Jenkins & Jessica McKinley

COVID-19 presents challenges for parents with or without parenting Orders, which can make it difficult if not impossible for parties to comply with existing arrangements or Court Orders. This has created uncertainty for parents and for children.

The Court expects all parents and carers to comply with the spirit of any Court Orders relating to parenting arrangements. Where Orders cannot be complied with for a genuine reason such as safety concerns or if a parent is self-isolating, the Court expects that parties will act in the best interests of the child and act reasonably to vary the arrangements to accommodate this. This may include children having make up time with a parent once it is safe and appropriate to do so or engaging in alternate arrangements such as regular Zoom and Face Time calls.

The Court are prioritising urgent matters and those concerning the safety of children and there is a specific COVID-19 list for eligible parties. In order to be eligible, you must satisfy all of the following criteria:

  1. The application has been filed as a direct result of, or if indirect, has a significant connection to, the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. The matter is urgent or of a priority nature;
  3. The application is accompanied by an Affidavit addressing the specific criteria;
  4. Where it is safe to do so, you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the issue but you were unsuccessful, e.g. mediation or negotiating with the other party.
  5. The matter can be dealt with using electronic means (e.g.: using telephone or videoconferencing).

Some examples of urgency include:

  • Where there has been an escalation of or increase in risk of family violence occurring;
  • Where an ADVO has been issued during the pandemic;
  • Where there is a dispute about a child being vaccinated against COVID-19;
  • Where a party has tested positive for COVID-19 or has quarantine requirements such as for reasons of their employment;
  • Where parties live in different states and territories and there is difficulty complying with Orders due to border closures;
  • Where parenting arrangements involve supervision of children at a contact centre and a supervisor is unable to perform their role due to the COVID-19 restrictions and parties are unable to agree upon alternatives;
  • Where a party is experiencing financial hardship as a direct impact of COVID-19 and requires urgent Court Orders.

How we can help

If you or someone you know requires specific advice relating to family law matters as a direct result of COVID-19, our team at Russell Kennedy Lawyers are here to assist you.

If you are interested to learn more about new developments in parenting matters, join us for a Russell Kennedy Family Law webinar – New Developments in Parenting Matters on Thursday 23 September. In the webinar, our presenters will discuss COVID related issues arising from current lockdown and electronic hearings.

We are pleased to offer expertise in the area of Family law from our Sydney and Melbourne offices. We have Accredited Specialists in Sydney and Melbourne who are more than happy to assist with any enquiry you may have. For any enquiry in Sydney, please contact our national head of Family law Amy Jenkins. If your enquiry relates to a matter in Melbourne, please contact Nicky Neville-Jones – Special Counsel and Accredited Specialist in Family law. 

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