How Will COVID-19 Impact Parents with Shared Custody of Children?

COVID-19 is having a significant impact upon every aspect of daily life including public services and the operation of the Court and the family law system. With millions of people around Australia practicing social distancing and self-quarantine, divorced or separated parents with shared custody of their children are facing unprecedented challenges of settling on new arrangements while living during a pandemic. At Robert Wood and Associates, we are Melbourne’s child custody law experts and our team is here to help guide and support you through this time. Let’s take a look at how COVID-19 is affecting your Parenting Orders.

Sticking to Existing Arrangements

If your parenting matters are regulated by Court Order, you must still meet your obligations under those terms unless a reasonable excuse applies. Existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue and both parents should take the necessary precautions to ensure they’re adhering to public health guidelines, such as social distancing. Parents should strive to ensure their children are able to see both parents during this time, it could be harmful for the child if they’re unable to see one of their parents for an extended period of time.

Modifying Arrangements

If arrangements become unclear or cannot be met (such as quarantine, illness, travel restrictions, or school closures) it’s important to use common sense to find reasonable solutions to any challenges that may arise. If schools are closed and changeover normally occurs after and at school, agree on or start planning for another suitable location where social distancing practices can be maintained. If time arrangements with the other parent cannot occur, find other ways to maintain the connection including digital communications. Changing arrangements may mean that not all parties are 100 per cent happy during this period, however it’s still better to come up with a temporary solution than to take the other parent to court.

Cooperating with Each Other

Most family courts are closed for everything but emergency matters, which usually do not include custody disputes. This means that divorced or separated parents will have to make up arrangements as they go. Do not try and equate the COVID-19 pandemic with other types of emergencies that may be covered in custody agreements, instead working together to provide for the best interests the child is of utmost importance. The circumstances surrounding many custody disputes have changed drastically over the past few weeks, but the safest bet is cooperation. Talk through concerns and be open to new arrangements. This pandemic is stressful for everyone, and children don’t need the added worry of parental fights. Instead they need stability and reassurance, especially about their contact and connection with their parents and loved ones.

Seeking Help to Settle Disputes

If you simply cannot agree on new amended arrangements, there are alternatives to conflict and animosity, and waiting for courts to reopen. Many family court mediators remain available to help couples work out custody related issues during this time. Mediators are well versed in parental disputes and issues involving children’s health and safety and can help families reach reasonable agreements.

Disobeying A Court Order

Even though shared-custody agreements and orders were crafted when the present crisis was unimaginable, violating them is still a huge risk, even if you believe the reason is solid. Judges may reduce visitation and custody for parents who interfere with their ex-partner’s custodial rights, especially during this time where parents should be working together to create a stable environment for their children.

Few custody and child-support court orders will have provisions covering how to share parenting in a pandemic, although they may become common in the future. This situation is unchartered territory so if you need legal help or support during this time contact the team at Robert Wood and Associates today. The child custody law experts Melbourne families trust, we will work with you to find the best solutions for all parties involved. Call us today on (03) 9762 3877 or get in touch with us online.

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