Covid-19 and Family Law
The outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted people in varying ways. It is understandable that during this time people may feel worried, afraid, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage about Covid-19.
At Umbrella Family Law, we want to simplify things for you and work with you to generate solutions and stability for you and your family in this time of crisis.
We are here for you as always and we will continue to deliver premium legal advice to you in a trusted way.
To ensure your health and safety and that of our staff, we are now working remotely. All appointments are continuing by phone and videoconference (depending on your preference). If you have a court hearing, we will talk to you more about this.
As a team that has always been at the forefront of new approaches (such as collaborative practice) we are well equipped to help you find practical solutions during Covid-19 and beyond.
We understand that no two families are the same and no two separations are the same. As each family and separation is different, it is important the advice you receive (especially if they are Covid-19 questions) is specific to your unique circumstances. We invite you to contact us to discuss any queries or concerns you may have.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Parenting Orders
During these uncertain times, opportunities may arise where families who have Parenting Orders in place have to depart from these orders out of necessity. For instance, in circumstances where a public place that was used for changeovers or the child’s school have been shut down, or if a child or caretaker has been isolated.
What happens if orders are not followed?
If both parents agree, the parents do not have to follow a particular order. In this case, parents should put this agreement to depart from the order in writing.
If the parents cannot agree, a parent who does do not follow the orders may be in contravention of the orders. In this case, the other parent may file a Contravention Application. A parent has contravened an order when they intentionally fail to comply with the order or make no reasonable attempt to comply with the order.
‘Reasonable Excuse’ and the Coronavirus
The court will determine whether the parent who contravened the order had a ‘reasonable excuse’. A reasonable excuse includes:
- The person believed it necessary to protect the health and safety of a person, including the person who contravened the order or the child, and
- The contravention did not last longer than was necessary to protect the health and safety of the person who contravened the order or the child.
Co-Parenting During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Co-parenting at any time during a relationship can pose various challenges in and of themselves, however given the current circumstances with the Coronavirus these challenges can be exacerbated and unavoidable. A group from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and AFCC have advised of seven different guidelines in which parents who are in the middle of a divorce, separation or sharing of custody can implement to create a healthy and positive environment for themselves and their children in these uncertain times. They include the following principles:
First and foremost, they advise to comply with all regulations put in place by the government. This is to ensure maximum protection against transmission of the virus through contact with those who have the virus or who are asymptomatic or a carrier. It also provides a learning environment for your child as they observe your good habits and follow your lead. It is also advised that your information sources are accredited and reliable sources so that misinformation does not feed the panic.
When addressing the issue with your children it is advised that you remain calm and refrain from careless comments that may cause panic. Encourage your children to ask questions and respond with age appropriate honest answers.
Be Compliant with Court Orders and Parenting Plans
Although these are unusual circumstances refrain from diverging from the orders or agreements that have been put in place. These orders or agreements were put in place to benefit all parties and are usually specified to be maintained even when the children are out of school or it is a holiday.
Inevitably it will be more difficult to travel and facilitate changeovers when there is significant travel involved as we are instructed to refrain from such movements. However, it has been advised to become more creative with connecting the children with the other parent and developing a ‘closeness’ between them This may involve more Facetime calls, shared books, games, movies and Skype calls.
Honesty can go a long way. It is recommended that any potential exposure to the virus be communicated to the other parent so as to ensure that there is no transmission of the virus. This is especially important if either parent or child is displaying any symptoms.
This is an extremely unprecedented time and it is encouraged that parents who are co-parenting remain flexible, not only for the sake of all parties involved but it also reflects positively to the judge in the Family Court that will hold you in good stead should other circumstances arise. In such circumstances allowing for the other parent to receive makeup times with the children will reflect well upon both parents’ ability to maintain balance within the relationship.
It can be understood that in these situations financial burden placed on individual is huge and can lead to missed Child Support payments. Those who are paying Child Support should try and give as much as they can of a payment and those who are receiving the Child Support payment should try and accommodate the other parent in these times.
The challenges we are faced with provide an opportunity to provide our children a positive and healthy environment in which they can develop and grow without the worries of choosing a side. Although it can be emotionally and mentally draining, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term gains.
Property settlement considerations during the Coronavirus Pandemic
We are aware that these uncertain financial times create new challenges for people considering property settlement post-separation.
Now more than ever it is appropriate to consider obtaining financial advice about your circumstances and we can refer you to trusted colleagues who, in conjunction with our team, can help you decide how best to proceed.