At Nicholes Family Lawyers, we remain open and active during this complex time that the world is dealing with COVID-19 and the associated restrictions we are currently adapting too. More and more, we are accessing remote and other services to keep servicing our clients, and assisting them to resolve their Family Law disputes. As the Chief Justice of the Family Court, the Hon Will Alstergren recently said in a recent interview with The Age, “in times of crisis, there is greater propensity, unfortunately for family violence…we have to just make sure we provide access to justice, we have to ensure people are properly cared for in those times”. We are continuing to support a number of separated families during this time.
However, its not just separated families who are facing potential issues with co-parenting at the moment.
There are very happy and intact families who are trying to balance the competing demands of working from home and educating their children at home – this requires communication and balance.
An article on Mamamia on 28 March 2020 told the story of a woman and her husband, who shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic had decided to separate, and stay living together in the same house until their lease expired later in the year. They now find themselves in effect “locked down” in the same house, both working from home, and co-parenting their children. This is not an uncommon story – there are many couples who remain living under the same room for a myriad of reasons, whether they are financial, to maintain stability for children, or simple practicalities. These people too, are finding themselves having to live, work and co-parent in circumstances they would never have foreseen.
We also work with a number of Rainbow families who co-parent their children in a number of ways which don’t include the fact they are separated. There are donors who have regular contact with children, there are couples who co-parent with other couples, and families who facilitate relationships between children and their donor siblings. These people too, are facing the challenges of co-parenting during this pandemic.
Whatever the circumstances in which you might find yourself co-parenting at the moment, there are some simple things you can consider, to make the situation as easy as possible for the children, and the parents involved.
Chief Judge Alstegren in a recent interview on Triple M, summarized the approach parents should take as simply to be “calm, sensible, and reasonable”. He urged parents to try and come up with the “best results” acknowledging that self isolation, and other measures mean that people can’t practically comply with Orders and agreements as they might have in the past.
Where possible, co-parents should work together to agree to alternative arrangements, and confirm these arrangements in writing, to avoid confusion.
Parents might need to consider alternative handover locations, if schools or care facilites are closed.
If current circumstances mean that physical contact is difficult, then co-parents should ensure that children are speaking with other parents and siblings at the very least by telephone, but also engaging video chat to enhance the communication.
Co-parents should agree on their boundaries around isolation of their children. This can be a scary time for children, and if there is consistency around households about what is and isn’t acceptable, this will assist with children’s stability.
If you are having difficulty navigating your co-parenting arrangements during this time, please reach out to us. We remain open to assist by telephone and video conferencing. We can convene mediations remotely, engaging psychologists and other professionals where needed.