Separated Parenting in the Pandemic – what the Covid-19 restrictions mean for family law

12-May-2020 Family Law By Simone Green

Contact arrangements

The severe and restrictive changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have been difficult for all but especially hard for separated families. Provided that all family members are well however, the restrictions in New South Wales do not prevent children travelling between households as part of the usual parenting agreement or Court orders, so long as all other Government protocols for are adhered to.

child with mask

The situation is currently different however for those whose children reside interstate as some Australian States and Territories have imposed border restrictions on travel for non-essential travel, some involving quarantine periods. For these families, depending on the State or Territory in question, there may be exemptions with Family Court Orders in place for children to travel between parents. It is wise to monitor the State or Territory Government website for updates.

When travelling between otherwise closed State or Territory borders is exempted for the purpose of Family Law orders, you should always carry a copy of the sealed Court Order to provide to the border control officers.

Domestic and Family Violence –

If you are experiencing domestic or family violence, know that all essential crisis support services remain available during the Covid-19 pandemic. Your safety and the children’s safety is paramount. Help is available if you need to leave. Contact your relevant State or Territory Government websites for more information. If you or your family are in immediate danger, please call the Police on Triple Zero.

When things go wrong-

The first step when arrangements for parenting go wrong is to attempt mediation to resolve the issues in dispute. Many mediators are still open for business conducting mediations via Zoom or similar video conferencing platforms during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

A certificate known as a ‘Section 60I’ certificate (provided by the mediator) is required prior to commencing Court proceedings for parenting orders. It is known as a pre-action filing procedure. There are exceptions however for urgency and family violence considerations.

If mediation fails, or is not suitable, you may still apply to Court for parenting orders.

The Family Courts (Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia) have issued a Joint Practice Direction with the introduction of The Covid-19 List. This specialised court list applies to urgent applications filed in either court as a direct result of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. This is a national attempt to fast-track hearings of eligible cases by triaging all applications for a first court date within 3 days of being considered by the National Registrar, or sooner if assessed as critically urgent. The Covid-19 List operates electronically without face to face hearings, allowing listings in any national Court Registry to make urgent orders.

If your matter is currently before the Family Courts

All cases currently before the Family Courts are being conducted electronically via telephone link or via Microsoft Teams video conferencing platform. Currently final hearings have been adjourned although interim hearings, procedural hearings and Conciliation Conferences with the Registrar are all progressing.

There may be significant delays on top of the existing delays in obtaining final hearing dates post Covid-19 restrictions and as such there has never been a better time to consider settlement via alternate means such as mediation or arbitration. See further information on mediationcollaborative law and arbitration  on our website.

Need Advice?

Our Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer Simone Green is available to advise you on your options via telephone, Zoom or in person by appointment, adhering to social distancing requirements, in our Sydney office. Don’t wait, call today on 02 8197 0105

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