The coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought additional stress and uncertainty to many families involved in co-parenting which, by its nature, can be stressful enough.

School closures, state and territory border closures, additional pressure on healthcare workers and providers of essential services, job loss and isolation all pose significant challenges to families with shared parenting arrangements. This is a time to put conflict aside and take a practical and sensible approach to co-parenting.

If you or your children are in danger, please contact your local police immediately.

Parenting orders – managing in difficult circumstances

  • As always, the safety, welfare and best interests of the children should remain a priority. If court orders are in place it is expected that they be complied with, which includes facilitating time spent by the children with each parent pursuant to those orders.
  • Where strict compliance is not possible, or compliance puts the safety of the child at risk, the parties should wherever possible, communicate to identify practical and reasonable solutions.
  • Ideally, an agreement to vary the arrangements of existing orders should be in writing, whether by text message, email or other app.
  • Parents and caregivers can facilitate negotiations through their lawyers and applications to vary consent orders may be filed electronically with the Court.
  • Where an agreement cannot be reached, one party may seek leave of the court electronically to vary the orders.

 Co-parenting arrangements generally – practical tips and considerations

  • Be proactive – anticipate that parenting plans may need to change and communicate now to put a plan in place. Obstacles to consider include school closures or extended school holidays, different changeover venues (with some venues now closed), potential lockdowns and additional demands on one or both parents such as health care workers and essential services employees.
  • Traditional work arrangements between parents may reverse, as full-time employees find themselves out of work and part-time and casual workers in essential services become more in demand.
  • Compromise is key – accept that parenting arrangements will likely need to change during these circumstances, at least for the short or medium term. Having said that, parties should not manipulate the current crisis to leverage additional time spent with children when this is clearly not necessary.
  • With many travel plans cancelled, parents and caregivers may need to re-think planned activities with children. There are numerous resources online providing creative ways to keep little minds occupied during these times.
  • If one parent or caregiver is missing out on scheduled time with a child due to the current crisis, be generous in facilitating communication between that parent and the child – consider using apps such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, in addition to the usual phone contact.
  • Talk to your children about the current situation and try to remain calm and positive. How you explain what is happening to your children will depend on their age, level of maturity and the individual circumstances.
  • Be creative and resourceful but try to maintain, as far as practicable, regular routines such as personal hygiene, healthy meals and bedtimes.

Court arrangements

The Family and Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australias continue to operate but have made significant changes to their processes, with strict protocols being implemented for future face-to-face hearings and the use of telephone or video conferencing to deal with some matters.

If you are presently involved in family court proceedings, you can contact your lawyer or visit the Court website for further information.

We are here to help

The coronavirus pandemic is a constantly evolving situation with a number of health and business orders issued at federal, state and territory levels. Government directions, advice and laws have, and will likely continue to change as new information and developments arise. It is important to stay informed of these updates through reliable sources.

Effective co-parenting means putting differences aside and working together to make decisions and care arrangements for children that are in their best interests.

We understand that this is a difficult and distressing time for many. At Chapman & Smyth Family Law we are utilising the latest secure technology to ensure that we serve our clients and assist them through these difficult circumstances. We also remain available for ‘in person’ appointments depending upon the circumstances.

This article is intended to provide general information only. You should obtain professional advice before you undertake any course of action.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please call us on 02 7202 2137 or email [email protected].