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Shared parenting arrangements in Tasmania and COVID-19David Harper Posted 2 April 2020
The Tasmanian Attorney General, Elise Archer, has provided updated clarification and guidance with respect to shared parenting arrangements following the further restrictions on movement announced by the Tasmanian Premier on Monday 30 March 2020 as a result of the developing COVID-19 situation.
From 31 March 2020, each person in Tasmania must remain in, or on, the person’s primary residence. However, there are specific exemptions that allow a person to leave their primary residence, which includes:
- shopping for supplies;
- undertaking personal exercise;
- attending medical appointments;
- seeking veterinary services for animals;
- providing social support, or care, to another person (including to attend to another person’s compassionate needs, to facilitate shared custody, guardianship or care arrangements for another person);
- attending school or study, if it cannot be performed at the person’s primary residence; and
- performing essential maintenance or security inspections.
In relation to the restriction on gatherings of more than two people, this does not include a gathering of persons for the purposes of facilitating shared custody arrangements, guardianship or other care arrangements.
The Attorney General has confirmed that the Courts expect that parents will comply with shared parenting arrangements and Family Court orders, but notes that:
- if it is impossible to comply in these challenging times, remain calm, reasonable and sensible in trying to reach a compromise;
- if you can reach a compromise, put it in writing;
- there are services that can help you mediate;
- if not, the Courts are open to hear cases electronically.
The Attorney General also states that while measures put in place by the Tasmanian Government to protect the community do restrict some movement, it is vital that parents act in the best interests of their children.
Consequently, separated parents who have an existing shared parenting arrangement for their children should continue to facilitate that arrangement, where possible. If the existing arrangements cannot be facilitated in light of the current restrictions, parents (either individually, through their legal representatives or other relationship support service) should try to reach a compromise.
If separated parents need to amend or vary a current parenting order, parenting plan or other agreed parenting arrangement, it is recommend that parents take steps to document those changes. If this is something that you feel that you will be unable to achieve with your partner by negotiation, seek urgent legal advice from a family lawyer and they will be able to assist you.
It is also recommended that separated parents have a copy of their parenting orders or parenting plan with them when they are facilitating changeover of their children from one parent to the other. This will avoid any issues that may arise if questions are raised by Tasmania Police about why they are not in their primary residence at the relevant time.
If you have recently separated from your spouse or partner and you do not have parenting orders or a parenting plan already in place, contact a family lawyer and ask that they put something in writing for you. Alternatively, contact a relationship support service such as Relationships Australia and they can assist you in trying to mediate an agreed outcome with your spouse or partner.
The key message is that parents must act in the best interests of their children. While this is always the paramount consideration when determining arrangements for children in separated families, its relevance is even more crucial as a result of the unprecedented times we now find ourselves in.
The Attorney General’s statement is available at the following link. https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/media-releases/shared-parenting-arrangements
The family law and relationships team at Dobson Mitchell Allport are available and ready to advise you with any parenting or relationship issues that you may be facing, whether they be as a result of COVID-19 or anything else.