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Parenting orders and COVID-19

Following court orders during the pandemic

One of the many Family Law issues that has arisen recently is whether parenting orders still ought to be followed where there may be concerns due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

We have had enquiries from clients wondering what their rights and obligations are in relation to Family Law parenting orders as the country works through its various responses to COVID-19. The introduction of unprecedented restrictions on social movement, mixed messages and different rules between Commonwealth, States and Territories appear to be causing understandable confusion.

It’s a genuine worry and we understand the concerns of any parent faced with difficult decisions about sticking to arrangements and orders in these uncertain days.

Statement by the Chief Justice

On 26 March 2020 the Honourable William Alstergren Chief Justice of the Family Court (also Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court) made a detailed statement in regard to parenting orders and COVID-19.

You can access the statement by clicking here.

You’ll glean from the statement that His Honour says that, broadly speaking and so long as it is safe and practical to do so, parents really ought to continue to comply with court orders concerning their children.

It is unlikely to be sufficiently good reason for a parent to cite fear about the virus, without clear evidence backing up those fears in their situation, as a basis to withhold children or as a reason not comply with orders.

Consequences of not following orders

The court system remains open albeit in a somewhat more restricted way that we have been used to. But there is still a process of asking for a court’s help where orders aren’t followed.

A parent who decides to take the law into their own hands and disregard orders would be subject to what is called a contravention application by the other parent. The court will scrutinise the reasons, if any, for non-compliance and it has wide ranging powers to deal with any unreasonable breach.

Sadly we may expect the court to see some examples of these types of contravention applications as the weeks pass in the current health crisis.

Communication is the key

His Honour Chief Justice Alstergren does refer to the desirability of parents communicating and seeking practical solutions. In his statement you’ll see how he emphasises that sense and reasonableness are key factors.

Maintaining a respectful dialogue with the other parent and trying to understand concerns will be important in working out what is in the children’s best interests.

Get legal advice if you’re unsure

These are difficult and very unusual times. If you are in any doubt about your legal position with respect to parenting arrangements, or court orders, we recommend that you obtain professional legal advice.

 

Bell Legal Group can help

If you have any concerns about your Family Law parenting arrangements in the current crisis our Family Law team is here to help.

Just call us on 07 5597 3366 or simply fill out the ‘Contact Us’ form at the bottom of this page.

 

Please note that this brief update was prepared by Alex Wynn, Senior Associate of Bell Legal Group  for information purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Family Law can be complex so always get legal advice tailored for your circumstances.

Alex Wynn