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COVID-19 and Family Law Court Orders

Tuesday 28th of April 2020
By: Victoria Kilby, Associate and Accredited Family Law Specialist, Coote Family Lawyers

I am so relieved it's over and I can't thank you enough.

Do I have to comply with my Family Law Court Orders during this pandemic?

COVID-19 should not be considered an excuse or opportunity not to comply with Court Orders, particularly in relation to children.  

During this unprecedented time, Court Orders remain in full force and effect and parents are required to continue to facilitate time between their child/ren and the other parent.   Leaving your home to attend changeover or facilitate time with the other parent is permissible, and you will not be contravening the stay-at-home directions by doing so.  Orders must be followed unless they are varied by a further Order of the Court, or by agreement between parties.   If an agreement is reached to vary Orders, it should be documented in writing, which can be done by text message or email.

In the event that strict compliance with an existing Order is no longer practicable, parents are expected to adopt a “common sense” approach and communicate with each other to resolve any issues.  If it is not possible for parents to communicate with each other because an Intervention Order is in place, you should communicate via your lawyers.  If you do not have legal representation and you need assistance to communicate with your partner about parenting, child support or other financial matters, we recommend that you contact our office for a discussion with one of our lawyers. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia remain in operation, and Court hearings are still being listed with.  The Courts are regularly releasing media updates to lawyers about new protocols and procedures to deal with COVID-19.  Most hearings are currently being conducted via telephone, however there are some exceptions for urgent parenting matters.   If you have existing Orders which are not being complied with, or if you are considering contravening Orders, we recommend that you seek legal advice from us.   The laws which relate to contraventions are complicated, and this unprecedented situation increases the uncertainty of how a Court might deal with your matter.  If a person is found to have a “reasonable excuse” for not acting in strict compliance with a Court Order, you may not achieve the desired result from filing a contravention application.    If a parent withholds your child/ren from you, you should keep a diary or written record of the date/s and time/s, so that make-up time can be sought.  If it is not possible for your children to spend time with the other parent due to travel restrictions, you should facilitate regular phone or video calls.

This is a very challenging time for many people, with the effects of COVID-19 extending to both parenting and financial matters.   If you need assistance to deal with your matter, please contact our team of top family lawyers in Melbourne on 03 9804 0035.

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