This is a part of a series to assist parents make child focused decisions during this unprecedented time of uncertainty and turmoil. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied on as legal advice.
Remain Child Focused
During this difficult and confusing time, it is important to truly focus on the children. I say this to my clients even without the advent of a pandemic. Your first obligation as a parent is to ensure that you keep your own fears and concerns to yourself. Your children want to feel safe and secure and any fear or uncertainty on your part will simply result in them sensing this and worrying as well.
I realise this is easier said than done and some basics tips given elsewhere in relation to obsessing about the newsfeeds and social media apply here. Instead of reading every news item or post, be discriminating in how often you check the feeds. If you find yourself getting agitated by what you are hearing or reading, choose a time when the children are not around to do this so you have time to assimilate the information and can act in a balanced and appropriate manner to the news.
This also means putting the needs of your children ahead of a point scoring exercise with your former partner. That person is your children’s other parent. They have a vitally important role to perform in the lives of your children pandemic or not.
Children want to grow up knowing and being loved by both parents. To give children this fundamental right, it is essential to ensure that they have the means of spending time with the other parent, whether there is lock down or not. If you consider that in intact families, parents often have to travel for work and do so for stretches of time. Think of FIFO families and what arrangements they have had to ensure that the parent working away from home
What must I or can I do if there are Court orders?
If you have Court orders, then these remain enforceable and should be complied with. Whilst the Courts are navigating their way through the various issues which the pandemic has presented, the Courts have developed ways in which they can remain “open for business”. Many operational issues have moved online. Some aspects are being conducted by telephone, Microsoft Teams. Some matters are being adjourned. Others are being heard in the Courts but with limited numbers allowed in the Court room at any given time.
There are exceptional circumstances in which children can be withheld and in respect of that decision you may resist the Court dealing with you for breach of the parenting orders. You should not withhold children except in exceptional circumstances and you should obtain legal advice which is specific to your situation. You need to use common sense as to what can be done to give effect to the orders in a pre and post lockdown environment. You should seek advice on an ongoing basis as this is a fluid situation which requires you to check in with your legal advisers about what will and what would not be considered acceptable to the Courts.
Children will worry about the other parent if they cannot see this for themselves.
It is frequently observed that children worry about the parent with whom they are not living, and all should be done to ensure a semblance of normalcy in this abnormal situation. Children will not tell you that they are worried. They will simply worry and if you are preoccupied with your own concerns, you may miss these signals. Normalise what is occurring as much as possible, so they do not panic.
Health and Well Being
Speak to the other parent about agreeing to some simple strategies for ensuring that both of you promote the health of your children. Your phone still works. So does your computer. Follow the advice which is being disseminated but ensure the advice that is guiding you both is from reputable sources. Do not entertain fringe or disreputable thinking. Consult CMO, State and Government websites, and WHO. Ensure that the two of you are reading the same sources. Be prepared to share links and get the other parent’s feedback.
Ensure that you stay healthy. Make sure the other parent is doing likewise and not taking unnecessary risks with their health. Reach common sense agreements about the children’s pre pandemic routines and decide what is most likely to promote their health and well being and what might put them at risk.
If you have a concern about your own health or that of the children, take a photo of daily temperatures and text to the other parent. Keep them in the loop in relation to any health developments and agree on what should be done i.e. contacting a drive through testing centre, working out what the current recommendations are in relation to assessing health.
Again, think about how you would have handled these issues from a common sense approach in the past with the additional rider that instead of acting unilaterally you need to consult the other parent.
If you need family law advice specific to your situation – please contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers +61 3 9320 3900
Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers
It is business as usual here at Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers. Our clients have adapted to us working remotely and no one is missing out on receiving our advice and continued legal representation. If you are new to our firm or are concerned about the current level of legal representation and advice, do not hesitate to contact us for a second opinion.