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How Does Covid-19 Impact Child Custody Arrangements

Covid-19 has introduced stress, anxiety and unknowns into the lives of many Australians, especially those with child custody arrangements. Fears around the health and safety of your children, following government-mandated lockdowns or isolation protocols and acting in the best interest of the children are all legitimate concerns during the pandemic. Thankfully there are clear and authorized rules governing the execution of child custody arrangements and Family Law during the pandemic.  To learn more about how Covid-19 may impact your child custody arrangements, here is a simple breakdown.

Navigating government protocols

Throughout the pandemic, the instructions and guidelines for parents adhering to a  Law order or child custody arrangement have been clear, and continue to do so. Even during a lockdown and curfew, transporting or picking up your children has been permitted under the rules. If you chose not to abide by any Lawfully executed custody arrangement it’s critical you speak with your Family Lawyer to ensure you have the appropriate exemption. Not adhering to a custody arrangement because of a lockdown or other Covid-19 related implication is not Lawful and you may be held accountable in court. Simply stating Covid-19 restrictions or public health orders as a reason for not abiding by your custody arrangement, will not be permissible in Family court.  These rules, however, don’t mean there is no way to overcome an existing custody arrangement if you believe that is in the best interests of your child or Family. 

Exemptions for child custody arrangements

The challenges of a global pandemic are evident without adding in the additional challenges around child custody arrangements. Schools being closed, potential exposure to the virus and maintaining a stable environment in an increasingly unstable time are all genuine concerns for parents. Adhering to existing child custody arrangements is an expectation of Family Law, even in the Covid-19 climate. Exemptions from these arrangements are, however, possible. These exemptions are generally for situations where it’s otherwise impossible to meet the requirements of the arrangement. If for example, your arrangement states:
  • You take your child to and from sports games/training
  • Picking up or dropping off your child at/from school or
  • Taking your child to regular appointments
These arrangements may no longer be required or permitted during public health orders to maintain the health and safety of the community. In these instances, the Family court expects parents or caregivers to find alternative solutions to their arrangement. Discussing these alternate arrangements with your Family Lawyer or Family Law expert is advised, as is executing any deviation in writing.  Using the expertise of a Family Lawyer or Family Law specialist will help avoid any unfair outcomes or sticking points parents and caregivers may find themselves in. Family Law can change quickly, so avoid taking previous advice as gospel and always check in on the latest information or changes.

Navigating interstate child custody arrangements

One of the more unique challenges some families will face during the Covid-19 pandemic is interstate arrangements. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, interstate travel and parenting arrangements generally ran smoothly. During the pandemic, borders have closed, and travel between states has been increasingly limited to exceptional circumstances. This may present a unique challenge to parents, caregivers and families who share care of a child or children and can no longer abide by their Family Law arrangements. In this instance, it’s crucial you speak with the other parent or caregiver to find a suitable solution to maintain contact.  Speak with your Family Lawyer to understand what rights you have in this scenario. It may be that you increase contact via other methods, such as video calls or phone calls. This scenario is almost certainly meant for not abiding by existing child custody arrangements, again it will be important to obtain any new agreements for care in writing. 

How to seek help

There are many services available to parents, caregivers and children during this challenging period. For any Family Law related concerns, questions or queries, speak with your Family Lawyer or Family Law expert. They are in the best position to give you up to date advice and help you understand your rights during the Covid-19 pandemic. For mental health support, utilise existing services such as beyond blue or kids helpline. Navigating this pandemic in a child custody arrangement can be stressful so it’s important you seek the advice and guidance you need. Covid-19 has presented significant challenges to the work and personal lives of many Australians. Periods of uncertainty with regard to movement, activities and public health place even greater stress on shared care and custody of children. Understanding how Covid-19 may impact your child custody arrangement is key to ensuring you and your Family can navigate these challenging times in the most appropriate way.  For advice or information on what options you have during this challenging time, contact Oxford Partners today.