During times of stress, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, parenting when separated can become more challenging. There are a number of uncertainties that parents must deal with whilst caring for children who may be anxious and stressed. Parents themselves may also be anxious and stressed. It is important that parents continue to make decisions during this time that are focused on the best interests of the children.
This fact sheet contains suggestions for separated parents in caring for their children and meeting their legal obligations during the COVID-19 challenges.
Am I allowed to take my children to changeover?
Yes. The restriction on travel announced on 30 March 2020 specifically states that parents/carers are able to travel within Tasmania to attend changeover. At all times the other directions given must be complied with (such as avoiding mass gatherings). This means that there must not be gatherings of more than 2 people from different households in the same location in public and each person must keep 1.5m apart. If you attend changeover at a public place then the children should simply move from one parent to the other and this should be done as quickly as possible.
Do I have to comply with Court Orders or a Parenting Plan?
Yes. The Court expects that Orders will be complied with. There will be circumstances that arise that genuinely makes it not possible to strictly comply with Orders or Parenting Plan. Those circumstances will be such as when a contact centre is closed, when changeover is to be at a school which is now closed or where interstate travel is required.
Do I have to comply if I think that the other parent has COVID-19 or may have been exposed to COVID-19?
No, provided that the parent withholding the child has genuine safety concerns for the child as the parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19. It is not sufficient to simply not trust that the other parent may not comply with the current restrictions. The Courts will presume, unless you are able to prove otherwise, that a parent will comply with the restrictions.
What do I do if I want to change the parenting arrangements?
Communicate. This should be with the other parent, provided it is safe to do so. Both parents should focus on finding a practical solution to their circumstances to enable the child to continue to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. Each parent needs to consider the situation, including the other parent’s proposals, sensibly and reasonably.
What are the guiding principles for alternative arrangements?
The safety and best interests (as defined in the Family Law Act) of the child should be the principle consideration for both of the parents. Each parent should appreciate the concerns of the other parent and of the child. This may include, for example, that family members are important to children and that they (or the other parent) may be concerned about the risks of transmission of infection to vulnerable members of the family.
What do I do if an alternative arrangement can be agreed?
Put it in writing to the other parent. This is easiest done by text, email, messenger or similar. Be as specific as you can. For example, if the children and the parent are to communicate by FaceTime – state clearly the day, time and who is to call who.
Where can I get more information and advice?
If parents are not able to resolve their parenting issues then they can seek assistance from:-
Legal Aid Advice Line - 1300 366 611
Family Advocacy Support Service - 1800 431 157
What if we can’t agree?
The Courts are continuing to operate however there may be delays. Parents are encouraged to try and resolve their issues, if it is safe to do so, by way of
Negotiation between the parents
Getting advice (see previous question)
Family Dispute Resolution - to arrange call the Legal Aid Advice Line or your lawyer
Court - are currently remaining in operation but not in face to face format. The requirement for the parties to attempt to resolve the dispute prior to making an application to Court remains in place. If you are considering making an application to Court please seek legal advice.
If you or your children are in immediate danger contact the police and seek medical advice if required.