At FGD we understand that the current living arrangements are tough on parents and children – and particularly those from families with separated parents. In order to help you arm yourself with some information and hopefully avoid conflict over the coming days and weeks we have put together some answers to frequently asked questions from parents.

Can my kids still go to the other parent’s house if there is a complete lockdown?

If the Federal Government, or the government of the state or territory that you reside in, directs that no person can leave their place of residence then you will have to comply with those Directions. However, this is not yet the case in any of the States or Territories and if a lockdown does occur, it may be that there are exemptions for separated parents.  In the meantime, the message from the Family Court is that you need to comply with Court Orders (if you have some) provided that doing so is in the children’s best interests.

If your children are unable to stay with their other parent, as they usually would, then you should investigate other options for them to communicate – such as through regular Skype or Facetime calls. 

My Ex has supervised visits with my kids at a playground.  It’s court ordered. What happens now?

There should be no reason why supervision cannot continue to occur, provided that the supervisor is able to comply with government guidelines about social distancing. If your visits are supervised by a professional supervisor you should talk to them about what alternatives are available.

We do handover at McDonalds due to Family Violence, if McDonalds closes it’s not really a safe place to swap, what do we do?         

Get on the front foot.  What other options do you have?  What do you need for you and the children to be safe and minimise the risk of conflict with the other parent? Think of a few options and propose these to the other parent before this becomes a problem. For example, perhaps you have a supportive neighbour who is at home right now and they are willing to be present in their front yard if changeovers are going to occur at your house. Other options might include places that have CCTV such as petrol stations, or supermarkets, or, if you cannot find anywhere else, a police station might be an option.

My Ex doesn’t agree we should keep the kids home from school, we have shared care, he sends them to school and I don’t…what can I do?

At the time of writing this blog, and to the best of our knowledge, parents are still able to decide whether or not they want to send their children to school or not – except for the State of Victoria where all schools have now closed for school holidays.

The arrangements for your children need to be in their best interests.  If your children are not coping well with the uncertainty of going to school some days, and not others, then it may be best for them to be consistently sent to school.  However, this will depend on the needs of each child. As all parents know, with children there is no one size fits all approach.

Keep in mind though that if your child is going to school at all, even on some days, then they may unknowingly be exposed to another child or person with COVID-19.  If you have vulnerable people living in your household when the children are with you then this should be considered.

What happens to child support paid to me by my ex if has been stood down?

If your ex updates his information with the Department of Human Services (Child Support) then they will likely issue a new Notice of Assessment based on his updated financial circumstances.  In order to get an idea for what your new Notice of Assessment may be you can use this online child support estimator.  It may not be exactly right but it’s a good initial guide.

Every second weekend my Ex stays at my house to see the kids and I go to a family member’s house, can we still do this in complete lockdown?

If you and your family are in self-isolation during complete lockdown then your ex may not be able to come to your house and you may  be unable to go to your family’s house.  This is particularly important if your family member is elderly or a vulnerable person.

Raise your concerns with your ex early so that you can jointly develop a plan as to what you are going to do to manage this. One option might be staying under the one roof, but in separate areas of the house.

What happens if the Court closes and I have a Family Law Matter?              

There are significant changes to the way that the Court is currently running hearings and Court events.  This is to ensure that the Court staff are protected from risk and that the Courts can remain open and continue to offer their important service for as long as is possible. At this time the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court is still open.

If your matter is already before the Court (if you or the other party has previously filed an Application) then your matter will proceed.  It may no longer be by way of a physical attendance at Court and if your matter is not urgent, it may be delayed.  The Court is managing the lists to make sure that urgent matters are given priority.

If your matter is not already before the Court then you can still file an Application.  However if your matter is not urgent then it may mean that you have to wait slightly longer before your first court date is scheduled.

While circumstances continue to change very quickly, you should ensure that as much as possible you comply with the directions of the Federal Government, your local State of Territory Government and with Court Orders. If in doubt  – call your lawyer. At FGD we continue to operate remotely and can talk to existing or new clients who need urgent advice.

Millie Enbom-Goad, Solicitor FGD

Article By Millie Enbom-Goad, Family Lawyer at FGD