Corona Custody
Corona Custody

Lockdown reality for modern families

Families in separate households are facing an extra layer of pressure to balance work, school and home life.

Estranged or divorced parents normally grapple with countless issues - now social distancing measures mean that split families have to be even more vigilant to ensure the health and safety of children and other family members.

Working from home means more people are in the house at any given time and, with blended families, this makes the chance of cross-contamination even greater.

The Family Court of Australia has urged families who are battling over custody arrangements to be calm, sensible and reasonable and to come to a compromise.

 

Modern family! Genevieve Laker with her daughter, Sage, and son, Lennox. Picture: Richard Walker
Modern family! Genevieve Laker with her daughter, Sage, and son, Lennox. Picture: Richard Walker

Chief Justice Will Alstergren urged parents to find the best result for the children by considering the other parent's problems within the context of COVID-19. This could mean spending fewer days with your children than you normally would or showing understanding when it comes to financial support if your ex has lost their job.

Solicitor Mekhala Siriwardana said the coronavirus itself is not a reasonable excuse for breaching custody arrangements or preventing children from seeing a parent.

"Using the virus as an excuse to withhold a child from seeing another parent would be seen as a contravention (of custody arrangements) and is not looked on favourably by the court," Ms Siriwardana said.

 

‘Our priority is the kids.’ Picture: Richard Walker
‘Our priority is the kids.’ Picture: Richard Walker

 

And if a family needs to be kept apart for health reasons, for instance if one parent lives with an elderly or unwell relative, then make sure the kids can still communicate with that parent by telephone or one of the many virtual platforms available, she said. "Maintain the relationship and maybe offer make-up time when it is possible for the children to visit again," Ms Siriwardana said.

Any changes to arrangements should be communicated by text or email so there is an agreed record of these alterations by both parents, she said. The message is that parents should try to maintain regular access while bearing in mind the safety and best interests of the children.

Mother-of-two Genevieve Laker said the time her children spend with each parent has not changed since coronavirus restrictions began, but said she and her ex had been worried when social distancing measures were first introduced.

"We're not best friends but I can call him at any point and our priority is the kids," Ms Laker said.

"And I think that is vital at this point because my ex works at a hospital. We have to be open and honest about what's going on and if there are any possible risks."

Psychologist Emma Lawson said working with a co-parent to create structure, consistency and routine as much as possible can lower anxiety in children in general.

Originally published as Lockdown reality for modern families



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