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Shared parenting arrangements during current COVID-19 situation

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Shared parenting arrangements during current COVID-19 situation

At MMRB we are aware that many families are concerned about how the current COVID-19 situation will affect their lives, particularly their ability to comply with parenting arrangements in light of the most recent Stay at Home Directions published by the Government on 30 March 2020 (“the Directions”).

Some key facts to take from the Directions are:

  • If a shared parenting arrangement is in place for a child whereby the child lives at different premises, then each of those homes is taken to be that child’s “ordinary place of residence”. In other words, a child is able to move freely between the two locations without breaching the requirement to stay home.
  • A person is allowed to leave their premises to meet obligations in relation to shared parenting arrangements, whether the arrangements are set out by a Court Order or otherwise.

Parents must, of course, continue to comply with the Directions while the child is in their care.

Situations may arise where usual arrangements between parents may need to be  varied, or example where changeover would normally occur at a school or contact centres which have since closed. Or where usual arrangements are simply impossible, for example where children are to travel between States where borders are closed, or a parent has been exposed to COVID-19.

In the first instance parents should, where safe to do so, communicate with each other and try to reach a practical solution, for example a safe alternative changeover venue or, where time with one parent cannot occur, arrange videocalls between the child and other parent and/or make-up time at a later date. The child’s best interests should always be the primary consideration of both parents, and any new agreements reached should ideally be made in writing, even if by email or text message.

For further information, please see the below link to a statement by the Hon. William Alstergren, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia:

http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/news/mr260320

MMRB will continue to keep our clients advised as the situation changes. In the meantime, if you need assistance in communicating with your former partner about changes to parenting arrangements, or if you have any further queries regarding the above information, please contact one of our family lawyers:

Family Law Senior Associate Geraldine Whitling of our Mentone Office on 9580 8311

Family Law Partner Shannon Hilton of our East Melbourne Office on 9604 9400

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