How does the Coronavirus affect my parenting arrangements?

In short, it doesn’t have to.

In a statement dated back in March (26th), the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia (the Hon William Alstergren) said that the Family Court of Australia was very aware that the current pandemic was having an enormous impact on families and the community.

It is natural for parents to be deeply concerned about the safety of their children and how COVID-19 will affect their lives.

There is uncertainty about how parents should be acting given the information that is being received from the Prime Minister, Premier and various other sources.

Chief Justice Alstergren acknowledged that every family’s circumstances were different and it remained imperative that parents and carers acted in the best interest of their children.

This does include facilitating time being spent by the children with each parent, or carer pursuant to parenting orders.

Chief Justice Alstergren stated that there may be situations that arise which make following current orders very difficult; such as doing a ‘pick
up’ from a school that may be closed, or if there are genuine safety issues such as where one parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19.

Chief Justice Alstergren recommended that parents should communicate with each other (if safe to do so) and try to find a sensible and reasonable solution.

These discussions should consider the safety and best interests of the child but also appreciate the concerns of the other parent (which included an understanding of risk of infection to vulnerable family members).

If the parents could reach an agreement this should be made in writing, even if it is via email, text message or a co-parenting app.

If there were no agreements in place, it is suggested that children are kept safe until the dispute could be resolved.

However, this does mean that each parent continued to have some contact with the children, which could include videoconferencing, social media or telephone calls.

If parents need further guidance, they can contact the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321.

If you would like mediation assistance the Family Relationship Centre can provide telephone or Zoom appointments, you can call to make an appointment on 1300 783 544.

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