How do you juggle shared care when you are in lockdown?
The Chief Judge, in a media release dated 26 March, encourages parties to “attempt to find a practical solution to these difficulties”, adding that they should try to communicate with each other “sensibly and reasonably”.
Just what are they supposed to do to spend time with their children? What if the kids are stuck with the part-time parent? Do I need to write a note to a police officer giving my authorisation for my ex to have the kids in the car? Who’s the boss – is it the courts or is it Gladys or is it ScoMo?
As COVID-19 diagnoses appear to be flattening out in NSW, COVID19 may mean that standard custody arrangements, eg, alternate weekends or a ‘week on, week off’ agreement, are not going to work due to the restrictions now in place. How are you supposed to control the transportation, the isolation standards, the sanity (if say one parent lives in a tiny unit, alternatively, if they live with another family)?
We have had some clients who have said that their ex-partner is using COVID19 to manipulate the new rules to their own advantage and keeping the children for much longer periods, or denying access to the other parent for their own selfish reasons. Interstate parents are questioning how they are going to be able to cross the borders just to visit their kids.
Does anyone benefit from these arrangements during COVID-19?
Custody visits also put both the kids and the other parent at high risk as the transmission of COVID19 is harder to manage as the various “touch-points” make it hard to pin-point. Whether exposure to the virus takes place at home, on public transport, at the local supermarket, or with your ex’s new family.
Our advice is to be open, use common-sense and utilise straightforward communication with all concerned. Your kids, your ex and also you, should allow yourselves to go with the flow when it comes to what is best for all parties. As always though, if you or your children are at risk of domestic abuse or your partner is facing challenges such as unemployment, you need to remain vigilant about the risk of depression and understand the state of mental health that you could be facing.
This is not a time for you to ignore any court-issued parenting orders because you think it is OK to do so during this time. You don’t want to be in a situation that could put your partner at an advantage once this pandemic / mandatory isolation period is over.
Your responsibility to your children should always be to keep them safe, and if they are at an age where they understand, feel free to talk to them about what is going on with the pandemic and what it means for them personally with respect to visitation with the other parent.
There should be no reason to keep your child/ren apart from their extended family members – most of your children will be familiar with Video Conferencing such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google and of course there’s the good ole’ fashion telephone that they can use.
COVID19 has imposed itself on our lives, the lives of our family members, community and the world. We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to stick around for, but we can control how our familiar relationships go. Let’s try and show our maturity in front of our kids.
If you need to speak to a Family Lawyer about a parenting arrangement with your ex, give us a call on (02) 9221 8390. We are available to video conference with you via your preferred method – Zoom, Meet, Skype, Teams etc.