Co-parenting throughout COVID-19 – Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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Many parents who have been involved in a parenting battle know the challenges that come with it. Since (which feels almost prehistoric) in early 2020, COVID-19 has created a number of new challenges that parents may face and need legal advice to overcome.
As we adjust to the “new normal” of COVID-19, in times of lockdowns, curfews, travel restrictions and border closings, parents face obstacles to complying with an agreement or order that make them ask, “What is the impact ? me?”
NSW Health and the newly merged Australian District and Family Court (the Court of Justice) have made it clear that parties who have entered into agreements should continue to comply with those agreements where appropriate; whether formal or informal.
There are many questions about whether travel restrictions apply to parenting arrangements – in most cases they don’t. However, other questions often arise, such as what if my ex-partner isolates himself because he has returned from abroad or was a close contact? What if my child has a weak immune system and is not safe to travel? What if my ex-partner is on the front lines in healthcare? What if our current orders are suitable for school? My working conditions have changed, can I now spend more time with my children?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer to the above questions and the parties may be able to negotiate amicable agreements that keep the best interests of their children in mind. Although this is not an option for others, the court created the National COVID-19 List.
The court created the National COVID-19 List (the List) to handle family law disputes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. It serves the parties involved in current or future family law agreements and disputes as a way to resolve their affairs in a timely and effective manner that is appropriate to their circumstances.
Eligibility to participate:
To be eligible for the list, the court must be satisfied that you meet all of the following criteria:
- You are making an application due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Your matter is urgent or must be a priority
- If it is safe to do so, you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the problem, but have been unsuccessful
- Your matter can be handled by telephone, video link or other electronic means.
When submitting, you will also need to include an affidavit with the above criteria.
Under what circumstances can I submit?
The court has given flexibility in terms of the matters that can be dealt with on the COVID-19 list.
- Family violence – if there has been an escalation or an increased risk of domestic violence due to COVID-19.
- Vaccinations – in the event of a dispute about a child’s Covid-19 vaccination.
- Medical – the parties cannot fulfill their parenting obligations because a party or a child tested positive for COVID or was forced into quarantine as close contact.
- Travel preparations and border restrictions – if parties live in different countries or are subject to travel restrictions
- Parenting agreements with supervised contact – when the contact center is closed or a manager cannot attend
- Financial and maintenance problems – due to financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Change of time according to family order – if the time has to be suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions or there is a non-compliance.
- employment – You work on the front lines or your employment relationship has been changed due to COVID-19.
When can I expect my matter to be dealt with?
If your application meets the required criteria, you can expect an initial return deadline within three to seven working days, depending on whether the court has determined the urgency of the application.
If your application does not meet the criteria on the COVID-19 list, you will be notified and your application will be forwarded to the nearest court office and processed as part of normal family law proceedings.
As the Public Health Regulation changes regularly, the Court strongly advises parties to contact their competent state or territorial authorities regarding current border restrictions or quarantine requirements.
The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. Expert advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances.
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