COVID-19 and parenting issues

COVID-19 and parenting issues

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

There are four 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.
  • In most cases, shared parenting arrangements can continue, even with current restrictions.
  • 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.

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 isolation or quarantine, or travel being banned.

If you are quarantining or isolating with children, make sure the other parent can contact them another way. For example, children could talk with them by phone or video chat. Try to work out how the other parent can have make-up time once you are out of isolation or quarantine.

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.

Visit the Department of Health and Human Services website to check current restriction levels in Victoria. You can also call the Victorian hotline on 1800 675 398 for more information. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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.

Can parenting arrangements continue if we live in places with different restrictions?

If you both live in Victoria, yes. Parenting arrangements that include shared care or contact with another parent or family member can continue under current restrictions. You and the other parent can travel into and out of areas with different restrictions to drop off and pick up your children. You are allowed to do this, even if you do not have a written parenting plan or court orders about your parenting arrangements. If you have documents about parenting arrangements, bring them with you for handover. The documents might be helpful if authorities ask why you are away from home.

If both parents live in different states, there might be restrictions that stop you and your children from crossing the border. This would be a reasonable excuse for not following parts of your parenting plan or parenting orders that need you to travel to or from different states. Read the Victorian Government’s travel updates to find out about the latest restrictions.

If the children are staying with you, make sure the other parent can contact them another way. For example, children could talk with them by phone or video chat. Try to work out how the other parent can have make-up time once the travel restrictions end.

Can we change handover?

Many families arrange handover 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 are safe and will work for everyone, including the children.

What if we cannot agree about what should happen?

Parents are usually encouraged to try to work things out, with help from a family dispute resolution service if needed. Our 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 Federal Circuit and Family Court has changed the way it works, 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. Go to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website for more information.

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 talk to our 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 our organisation on (03) 8373 7917 and ask to speak to the FASS information referral officer. They will ask you for some personal information so that they can arrange help for you from a family lawyer and a support worker. 

Read more about our Family Advocacy and Support Services. 

Help for other issues

Learn where to get help with COVID-19 coronavirus.

More information

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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