While it might seem we are living in a dystopian movie involving biohazards, quarantines and social disruption, some basics remain. The interests of children need to remain the focus of parents.
The Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia has released a Top 10 Guide for Separated Parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It suggests the top 10 tips to assist separated parents as follows:
- Stay healthy
It is important to model best practice habits to minimise the risk of spreading the virus by handwashing and responsible social distancing. We loath this term. What it really means is special distancing – we have never needed each other more!. Let the other parent know that you and all members of the household are following these guidelines. As with all co-parenting, consistent messaging across households is ideal.
- Be present and considerate
Children will have heard much about the virus through schools and media. It is important to be able to sit down and engage in an age appropriate but frank discussion regarding COVID‑19.
- Meeting your obligations
If your parenting matters are regulated by a Court order or agreement, you must still meet your obligations under these terms unless a reasonable excuse applies. Of course if arrangements cannot be met, for example travel restrictions and quarantine, use common sense to find solutions. If you are even considering not complying with a Court order without the consent of the other parent, the time to seek independent legal advice is before you breach that order, not after you have been served with an application for contravention of the order.
Schools are closed, or may close. If changeover normally occurs at a school or a sporting event, nominate or start planning for another neutral public location that would be suitable.
- Be open
Try to be on the same page. You are both going through a difficult time and you will both need to do things in each of your households to limit exposure to the virus and shield the children both physically and emotionally from COVID-19. If your child is showing any symptoms, that information should be shared immediately with the other parent. If you are showing any symptoms, that information should be shared with the other parent!
- Be mutual
Think about how you would like the other parent to engage with you about these issues and model that engagement.
- Be compassionate
Very few people can apply certainty to planning in times of stress and may respond to data about risk in ways that seems to be disproportionate to you, but understand that everybody will deal with the crisis in a different way. Being calm in times of high stress is the best way forward.
- Be solutions focussed
At this time more than ever the need for adults concerned with the care of the children to find compromise in the interests of the child is absolutely clear. The Courts will have limited availability and it is an opportunity to find new ways to solve old problems.
- Help out in to the extent that you can
People may lose jobs or experience a reduction in their income. This may impact what can be paid by way of child support or contributions to other expenses. Try to be understanding of the situation the other parent is in, and note that financial worry will probably be existent in both households.
- Be patient and positive
The situation is not going to resolve overnight and changes to the way we work, socialise, communicate and parent will come the next few weeks and months. Make a conscious effort to embrace the good and joyful moments in each day. Stay connected by phone or social media to friends and family who can support you, and remember that you are the beacon for the children at this time.
Tiyce & Lawyers – We’re here when you need us.