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This factsheet will help parents work through what public health guidelines around COVID-19 mean for their children and parenting arrangements.
Parents need to know that:
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 orders can’t be followed, you should try to follow the spirit of the orders and make sure that any alternative arrangements are in the best interests of your children.
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 would depend on how serious it is.
Things might happen during the COVID-19 pandemic that make it very hard to follow the orders. For example, a child might have to go into self-isolation or the orders might be about pickups from school, and schools could be temporarily closed.
If it is safe to do so, you should talk to the other parent to try to find solutions that are safe and will work for everyone, including the children.
If you or your children have been asked to quarantine or self-isolate, you should:
Helpful tip: contact the other parent by text message or email so you have a written record of the information you gave the other parent and agreements for the children.
If the other parent needs to self-isolate, and the children are with you, the children should remain with you for as long as the other parent remains in self-isolation.
In most cases, parenting arrangements can continue, even with restrictions.
Government laws and guidelines can change quickly, so it is a good idea to check for up-to-date information. Visit the Queensland Government website and the Australian government website for information about coronavirus for all states and territories.
If you need to temporarily change your court orders and you are able to reach an agreement with the other parent about how to do this, you don’t need to go to court to have the orders changed.
You should contact the other parent by text message or email so that you have a written record of your agreement. Keep a copy of any important documents like doctor’s letters.
Parents are usually encouraged to try to work things out with help from a family dispute resolution service or counsellor if needed.
If you can’t reach agreement, or if it is not safe for you to communicate with the other parent, you can apply to a court to make a decision about arrangements for the children. 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. See the Family Court website or Federal Circuit Court website for updates.
If you are still unsure about your situation, you can get legal help and referrals from:
13 11 14
1300 301 300