If you are a separated parent who shares care of your children with the other parent (or where one parent is entitled to contact with the children), how does the Covid-19 lockdown affect you?
The Principal Family Court Judge has issued guidelines as follows:
The overriding consideration is for parents to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children, while at the same time, remembering the reason for this lockdown: to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The statement gives advice on when a shared care arrangement should be continued and when a child should stay in one place. In summary:
Generally, children in the same communities can continue to go between their homes, unless:
o the child is unwell. In this case the child should not travel between homes until they are well.
o someone in either home is unwell.
o someone involved (i.e. the child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has been overseas in the last 14 days, OR has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for Covid-19 OR has been in close contact with someone who has the virus or is being tested.)
The Family Law Section recommends that the transporting parent carries a copy of the parenting order or parenting agreement with them in the car, in case the police ask you where you are going. Access to an email confirming your arrangements should suffice.
Parents and caregivers should discuss if shared custody arrangements would allow COVID-19 to potentially spread without them being aware and reach an agreement. This may mean the child may stay with one parent/caregiver for the initial 4 week period.
In more complex shared care arrangements, i.e. where day-to-day care is shared between more than two parents, or where one parent lives outside of the same town/city, the child should stay where they are for the four week period.
If your family forms part of a “chain” of households, for example, your children go to their dad’s, and his step-children go to their dad’s, and your step-children go to their mum’s, you need to think carefully about how big that bubble is getting – can you contain the virus? Possibly not. Perhaps someone needs to make a sacrifice so that the chain link is broken and the bubble doesn’t get too big.
If children aren’t able to physically visit a parent, the stay-at-home parent must aside their conflict and be generous with contact via skype/facetime/phone so that the child feels loved and cared for by both parents through this difficult time.
If you having difficulty making arrangements, email me and I will get back to you.