Care of Children during COVID-19 Lockdown
When considering any matters relating to childcare, the Family Court is always guided by the question, “what is in the best interests of the children?”. This has become known as the “paramountcy principle” as the welfare and best interests of the children in any matter are considered of principal importance.
Although we have entered stressful and uncertain times,, what is in the best interests of the child (or children) should remain the guiding consideration for anyone who is navigating childcare issues related to covid-19 and the level 3 or level 4 rules imposed by the Government.
A statement issued by the Principal Family Court Judge, Judge Moran, provides guidance for families dealing with covid-19 and childcare issues, as follows:
b) Someone involved has been overseas in the last 14 days;
c) Someone in
the household has been close contact with someone infected by covid-19; or
d) Someone in the household has been in close contact with someone being tested for covid-19.
Can I Change Parenting Arrangements Due to Covid-19?
Judge Moran has warned against parents using the covid-19 situation to change care arrangements to suit themselves, stating, “this global pandemic should not be seen as an opportunity for parents to unilaterally change established care arrangements without cause, or otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with the child’s best interests, or Court ordered care arrangements.”
The Family Court has always placed emphasis on the ‘best interests’ of the children being at the forefront of parents mind when making care and contact decisions. The Court also recognises the importance of a child’s parents’ being able to negotiate directly wherever possible in relation to the complex issue of shared care. It is the view of the Court that it is always best for the children when their parents can come together and make unified decisions as they will undoubtably be required to do so until the children are of adult age. Judge Moran has noted within her statement that, “parents must put aside their conflict at this time and make decisions that are in the best interest of the child, their families and the wider community.”
It is clear from Judge Moran’s statement that any Parenting Order in place should be adhered to, unless there are real safety concerns that covid-19 is in either household. Parents should aim to communicate openly with each other about any variations they believe are required.
Parenting Orders Generally – What’s the Benefit? Why Do I Need One?
We suggest that if possible, a Parenting Order should be entered into by parents of a child (or children) to provide certainty for all members of the household. Children need routine, so it is helpful to both parents and children to have an established care and contact routine. This is particularly important in uncertain and stressful times such as now.
We can assist you with the process of having a consented Parenting Order drafted and implemented if you and your ex-partner agree as to childcare arrangements.
We are also able to advise you as to your options for beginning the process if you believe your ex-partner may not consent to your proposed childcare arrangements.
The benefits of having a Parenting Order is that it provides clear boundaries. This hopefully minimises conflict as both parties are aware of the terms and their rights. You can always be flexible by negotiation, however. This means that if one party wishes to swap a weekend or day, you can, provided both parents agree. However, in the event you do not agree to the variation, the Order provides a “default” position which must be adhered to.
The Courts take breaches of a Parenting Order seriously and it is much easier to determine your rights and take immediate action to rectify any issues, if a Parenting Order is already in place.
How Do I Begin?
If you would like to discuss care arrangements for your children or have one of our friendly team members assist you with advice on how to implement a Parenting Order, please contact our team at Pier Law.
We are still operating (albeit from home) during level 4 and level 3 and able to assist you by phone, email or video-link.
Article written by Casey Walters.