The current Covid-19 climate and the restrictions in place across Greater Sydney and now Newcastle and the Hunter area, have made it difficult to grapple with what we can and cannot do in most aspects of our daily lives.
If you have Court Orders, a Parenting Plan or an informal agreement as to parenting or care arrangements for children, knowing what is permitted under the restrictions can seem especially confusing if it involves travelling out of your Local Government Area or Greater Sydney generally.
Deconstructing the Restrictions
If you live in Greater Sydney, Newcastle or the Hunter area, you are not permitted to be away from your place of residence without ‘reasonable excuse’.
If you live outside Greater Sydney, Newcastle or the Hunter area then you must not enter those areas without ‘reasonable excuse’.
In both cases a reasonable excuse includes:
- Undertaking legal obligations; and
- For children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings – giving effect to new or existing arrangements for access to, or contact between, parents and children or siblings.
The current Public Health Order also specifically allows a person to visit a residence in Greater Sydney, Newcastle or the Hunter area ‘to give effect to new or existing arrangements for spending time with, and providing contact between, parents and children under the age of 18 or between siblings’.
For the purposes of the restrictions, a ‘parent’ of a child includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who cares for or has parental responsibility of the child.
The additional restrictions which presently apply to certain Local Government Areas do not change the provisions above which allow compliance with Court Orders, Parenting Plans or informal agreements about children to continue.
Parents and carers should however keep in mind that if they or the children have been to a hotspot or exposure site then they will need to follow the rules for testing and isolation. Information about exposure sites can be found here https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/nsw-covid-19-case-locations/exposure-locations. If your household is forced to isolate, try to stay in touch with other parents, carers and siblings with FaceTime or Zoom.
Court Orders and Proceedings
The Family Court expects that parents and carers will comply with Orders in relation to parenting arrangements and to act reasonably where strict compliance is not possible. More information about the Family Court’s position can be found here http://www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au//wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/reports-and-publications/media-releases/2020/mr260320. Whilst first published in March 2020, this Statement from the Chief Justice the Hon William Alstergren remains current.
The Family and Federal Circuit Courts are otherwise continuing to operate, making the majority of the scheduled appearances electronic – by phone or video conferencing. Some non-urgent matters will be adjourned as face to face attendance at the Court is heavily restricted. Matters currently before the Court should progress with little interruption, as the Courts now have systems in place to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.
Do you need further advice?
Restrictions as to movement and gathering remain in place across NSW, at least until 28 August 2021 and possibly longer. The underlying legislation, a discrete Public Health Order set by the NSW government, is amended frequently as the current Covid-19 outbreak develops.
If you have questions about how these impact your parenting arrangements, your family law dispute, or your situation in general, please contact us on (02) 9525 8688 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.