COVID-19 and parenting issues

COVID-19 and parenting issues

Many parents feel worried and confused about what the COVID-19 coronavirus means for their children and parenting arrangements.

There are three important things you need to know:

  • if you have court orders, you must continue to follow them unless you have a reasonable excuse not to.
  • everyone must follow laws and public health guidelines
  • you should try to work through any changes with the other parent and come up with an agreement, if that is safe for you and the children.

Can I keep my children with me?

If you have court orders about parenting, or a parenting plan, you should follow them unless you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to.

A reasonable excuse could include a health professional directing you and the children to go into quarantine, or travel being banned.

If you are in quarantine or self-isolating with children, make sure the other parent can have contact another way. For example, children could communicate with them by phone or video conferencing. Try to work out how the other parent can have make-up time once the crisis has passed.

If you fail to follow parenting orders and do not have a reasonable excuse, the other parent can take you to court. The court can make orders, such as make-up time, and give penalties. The type of penalty will depend on how serious it is.

What laws and guidelines do I need to follow?

Laws and guidelines can change quickly, so it is a good idea to check for up-to-date information.

The Australian Government Department of Health has national coronavirus health alerts and information about laws and guidelines that must be followed. You can also call the national hotline on 1800 020 080. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has Victorian information, updates and advice. You can call the Victorian hotline on 1800 675 398.

Can we change handover?

Many families arrange for handover to happen at school, or in public places, like restaurants. That might not be possible if these places are closed. Try to reach an agreement with the other parent about new handover arrangements that will work for everyone, including the children.

What if we cannot agree what should happen?

Parents are usually encouraged to try to work things out, with help from a family dispute resolution service if needed. Victoria Legal Aid's Family Dispute Resolution Service can help people resolve family law disputes. Other family dispute resolution services are also available. These services are likely to be impacted by coronavirus and there may be longer delays.

If parents cannot reach agreement, or if it is not safe for them to communicate, they can apply to a court to decide. The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have changed the way they work, to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus at court. Many services are being offered remotely, by phone or video conferencing, and there may be longer delays. See Family Court of Australia updates or Federal Circuit Court updates.

Get help with children and parenting arrangements

Help for court matters 

There have been changes to services at court in response to COVID-19 coronavirus, but you can still get legal and non-legal help from the Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) or our duty lawyers.

Our FASS duty lawyers and support workers are now available via phone to provide you with legal and non-legal support. 

Call Victoria Legal Aid on (03) 8373 7917 and ask to speak to the FASS information referral officer, who will ask you to provide some personal information so that they can arrange help for you from a family lawyer and help from a support worker. 

Read more about our Family Advocacy and Support Services

Help for other issues

Learn where to get help with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

More information

The Law Council of Australia Family Law Section has a Top ten guide for separated parents during Covid19

Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Parenting and child contact

Download or order free copies of our family law publications.

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