The Impact of Covid-19 on Parenting and Children

Whilst the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court have introduced special measures to keep the court system operating during the Covid-19 pandemic, Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the parents of children living in Australia, whether a parent is living in Australia or overseas.

The Family Court of Australia will usually facilitate a priority listing of the case in the Covid-19 List if it qualifies under all of the following criteria:

  • The Application has been filed as a direct result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, or if it is the indirect result, the Application has a significant connection to, the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The Application is urgent;
  • The Application is accompanied by an affidavit addressing all of the criteria;
  • You have made reasonable attempts (if safe to do so) to resolve the dispute but have been unsuccessful; and
  • The case can be dealt with by the Family Court using Microsoft Teams Video-Conferencing.

The following examples illustrate what sort of cases the Family court will accept into the Covid-19 List:

  • Family violence: If a child is at risk due to family violence in the household associated with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting from a parent’s inability to leave the household.
  • Suspension of parenting orders due to a family violence order: where existing parenting arrangements have been suspended by a family violence order made in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and the parent who has had his/her time with a child suspended and seeks that the Court make further parenting orders.  
  • Vaccinations: There is a dispute about whether a child should be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Medical: Parents cannot discharge their parenting obligations due to a party and/or child testing positive for COVID-19 or medical complications from having contracted COVID-19, or quarantine requirements after being exposed to COVID-19.
  • Travel arrangements or border restrictions: the parties live in different States or Countries and there are prohibitions regarding the child travelling across borders between the parties’ residences.
  • Supervised contact: if the current parenting arrangements require supervised contact, and the child contact centre is closed or the supervisor is unable to perform their role, and the parties have been not able to come to some other acceptable arrangement.
  • Urgent or priority financial and maintenance issues: a party is experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 and requires urgent court orders to remedy the situation, for example, urgent spousal maintenance or the sale of a home or other asset.
  • Failure to resume time in accordance with parenting orders or a parenting plan: where parties agreed to suspend parenting arrangements due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, but once those restrictions are eased, a parent refuses to go back to the previous parenting arrangements.
  • COVID-19 related employment: a parent is a front line health-care worker, or engaged in other employment connected with COVID-19 that is impacting parenting arrangements or compliance with orders.

However, getting a case into the Family Court’s Covid-19 List may be the easy part.  At the first court hearing, which could take place within days of filing the Court Application, there are circumstances where there is very little a Judge can do to resolve the situation.  For example, if the state or country’s borders are closed, then a Judge has no power to over-rule that closure.  In such cases, a Judge may order parents to facilitate communication with a child by telephone or video-conferencing, but other than that there may be no quick-fix to redress the situation.

Our Lawyers at Melbourne Family Lawyers are well-experienced in dealing with difficult situations and we can provide guidance to enable you to understand the legal process, get your case dealt with by the Family Law Courts quickly and achieve the best result for you and your children.

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