Coparenting in the Covid-19 era: Complying with Orders

Coparenting in the Covid-19 era: Complying with Orders


Do I have to comply with orders?

We keep hearing the term “we are all in this together”, and indeed we truly are. But if you are dealing with conflict with your child’s other parent, you may well be feeling that you are completely out on your own and overwhelmed.  Our aim in this series of articles will be to help you work through this.

These are unprecedented times, and so the usual guide book has been thrown out the window. But maybe hearing about issues facing others will help you feel a sense of being less alone, and maybe even help with your ongoing decision making in this quickly changing environment.

One of the most common questions we have been asked is:-

Do I have to keep following the orders we have in place as a result of the pandemic?

Our answer is clear on one hand. Yes, you do. Unless you have a reasonable excuse to not follow the orders in order to protect the health or safety of your child (or you).

So what is a reasonable excuse really in this extraordinary time?  These are some of the issues arising from that question we have dealt with over the past couple of weeks: 

  • We have to self-isolate after returning from overseas.  Do I still have to send my child to the other parent in accordance with the orders?
    • This was an easy one, no.  Self-isolation is there for a reason and everyone who has to do it will suffer somewhat in those 14 days, but it is an actual requirement.  It would break the definition of self-isolation if you sent your child to their other parent.  However, if the other parent had travelled with you (unusual, but possible) then it may well not be breaking the definition of self-isolation to then self isolate with that other parent at some point during the 14 days.  
  • I am isolating my child because they are at higher risk due to a compromised immune system. Do I still have to send my child to the other parent in accordance with the orders?
    • This is much trickier and depends on the circumstances.  There is a strong argument for a child who is at high risk to be staying in one home only and not being exposed to others, including their other parent.  The really difficult thing is that none of us knows how long we will be in this state, and so that child and that other parent may end up not seeing each other for an extended period of time.  There may be ways of trying to lessen the impact of this separation, such as very regular Skype/Zoom/Facetime between them.  Our suggestion in this case was that the other parent do an hour a day of schooling by Skype.  That worked out well for the parents as it gave the parent at home a much-needed break during the day and the other parent really meaningful interaction in difficult circumstances.  They also spent other time on Skype on a regular basis.  This is just an example and would have to be adjusted to your own circumstances, such as (for a very simple example) shorter periods with younger children.
  • My ex is a health care worker, and I am worried about their exposure plus they are working extra shifts. Do I still have to send my child to the other parent in accordance with the orders?
    • This one really depends on the circumstances.  For example, is your child at higher risk? Is the other parent’s roster set out in advance or are they essentially on call as a result of the pandemic?  Is there another person in the other parent’s house who can care for the children for short periods when with them?  In this case the children were not at higher risk, and the other parent had been required to take on 2 extra shifts per week, one of which coincided with that parent’s time with the children.  We helped the parents reach an agreement to temporarily change around the arrangements in one week a fortnight.  Those arrangements took into account that the children were still at school, but provided for what would happen if schools closed.  Thankfully for themselves, and in particular the children, the parents both recognised that the situation is fluid and the health care worker’s work may well spiral out of control soon.  Both parents seemed absolutely committed to doing what they can to ensure the children still get to see their health care worker parent when it will be possible.

We know we are going to be faced with questions we have never been asked before, despite about 35 years of experience between us.  Some of those questions might actually stump us initially. Luckily for us (as people as well as lawyers), we have our team around us to bounce ideas off and get support from. We are then able to pass onto you a carefully thought out position and advice.

We really hope that the current challenges every single one of us is facing will actually help people work better together, and we have already seen this happening.  For two parents who have in common the absolute desire to keep their shared children safe and to do the best for them, the current challenges might even help them find a way to more cooperatively co-parent into the future. But not everyone will be so lucky.

We will address more of the issues you might face in coming days.

All of us at Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers are still working (although from home for most of us), and here to help.


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