In an unprecedented move, the chief justice said the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court, which also deals with parenting disputes, said they recognised that complying with court orders may be difficult if not impossible.
With state borders and schools closed, it might not be possible to pick up children for contact visits or one parent may be in isolation because of COVID-19, Chief Justice Alstergren said today.
“For instance, where orders stipulate that contact with a parent occurs at a designated contact centre, which may not currently be operating,” he said.
“Or, the “pick up” arrangements of a child may nominate a particular school, and that school is now closed. Many state borders are also closed.
In addition, there may be genuine safety issues that have arisen whereby one parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19, and this may restrict the safe movement of a child from one house to another.”
He said that while the courts remained open, parents should try to find a practical solution but only if it was safe to do so.
“These should be considered sensibly and reasonably,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.
“Each parent should always consider the safety and best interests of the child, but also appreciate the concerns of the other parent when attempting to reach new or revised arrangements. This includes understanding that family members are important to children and the risk of infection to vulnerable members of the child’s family and household should also be considered.”
He warned that violence or the threat of it should be reported to the opolice.
He said the courts and lawyers were open for electronic mediation.
“Where there is no agreement parents should keep the children safe until the dispute can be resolved,” he said.
“It is imperative that, even if the orders cannot be strictly adhered to and are varied by the parties, the parties ensure that the purpose or spirit of the orders are respected when considering altering arrangements, and that they act in the best interest of the children.”
-Janet Fife Yeomans