How COVID-19 May Affect Your Parenting Matter
We at Perth Family Lawyers have had an increased number of queries from persons concerned about a parent using COVID-19 as an opportunity to not comply with the Court Orders.
Court orders must be followed and may only be varied by agreement between parties. Parents are expected to facilitate time with each parent pursuant to parenting orders where it is sensible and reasonable to do so.
If, however, orders cannot be compiled with or are not practicable due to COVID-19, you and your former partner should communicate with one another to resolve any issues. If this is not possible, or is unsuccessful, we confirm that you should contact our offices on (08) 9325 8675 so that one of our dedicated solicitors can assist you.
As with all child related matters, it is imperative that parties act in the best interests of the children.
If you are considering breaching court orders, for any reason, we strongly urge you to seek independent legal advice from us immediately.
Similarly, in the event that your former partner is not complying with the Court Orders that are in place, and you are considering commencing Contravention proceedings in the Family Court, we urge you to obtain legal advice on this issue.
The Family Court will permit a contravention of the Court Orders if there was a reasonable excuse for doing so. A reasonable excuse is one where the contravention is necessary to protect the health or safety of a person (including you or your children) and where the contravention does not last longer than necessary in order to protect health and safety. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. It is difficult to say at this stage what the Court will interpret as a reasonable excuse in light of COVID-19, and we cannot predict how the court will view a breach to a parenting order as a result of COVID-19 concerns. It is therefore important you obtain legal advice about the options available to you.
The Government of Western Australia has now, however, released a directive with respect to intrastate travel restrictions, and made clear that the restriction does not apply for various particular reasons. Most relevantly to us, one of the exemptions is if you are required to travel for the purpose of fulfilling your obligations under a parenting plan, parenting order of a court or other parenting arrangement.
Family Court of Western Australia
The Family Court of Western Australia continues to release updates and directions to solicitors in as they attempt to and Federal Circuit Court are regularly releasing updates and directions to lawyers as they attempt to deal with COVID-19.
Of significant importance is the Court’s suggestion to conduct all hearings (other than Trials) by telephone wherever possible.
The Court has also restricted entry to the building of any individuals who are experiencing flu-like symptoms or persons who have travelled overseas in the last 14 days.
At this stage, it is unknown whether COVID-19 will result in a delay in matters which are currently within the Court system, progressing to Trial.
How we can help
The dedicated team at Perth Family Lawyers is working away to ascertain the effects of this pandemic on your family law matter and, more importantly, ways to ensure matters progress as smoothly as possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change daily, and it is likely the effects of it in a family law context will continue to increase.
If you have any concerns or queries regarding the impact of COVID-19 on you or your family, you should contact us immediately on (08) 9325 8675.