Coronavirus (COVID-19) information
The Australian Government is aware that parents are naturally concerned about the safety of their children and how the measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 will affect their lives. For information and updates about the virus from government agencies across Australia, go to australia.gov.au.
Family law issues
Parents and carers are expected to comply with court orders in relation to parenting arrangements, consistent with their responsibilities to act in their children’s best interests. This includes facilitating time being spent by the children with each parent or carer pursuant to parenting orders. It also includes ensuring the child’s safety and wellbeing.
Where measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 make compliance difficult, there are a number of options available to parents. The Family Court of Australia has issued general guidance for families in relation to parenting orders and COVID-19. The statement from the Chief Justice of the Family Court outlines options available to parents and can be found on the Family Court’s website.
Where it is safe to do so, parents are encouraged to communicate with each other directly, or with the assistance of a third party, such as a family dispute resolution practitioner or lawyer, about their ability to comply with current orders and attempt to find a practical solution to these difficulties. The focus should be on the safety and best interests of the child. Any alternative agreement reached should ideally be put in writing.
At all times, parents or carers must act reasonably. To act reasonably, or to have a reasonable excuse for not complying with court orders, such as to protect the health and safety of a person, is a matter that is considered by the court.
The Law Council of Australia has also provided general advice about managing parenting arrangements during this time which may be of use to some parents. This is available on the Law Council of Australia website.
The courts remain open. Parties may develop consent orders varying parenting orders and file these electronically with the court. Alternatively, where it is not possible to reach an agreement, or it is unsafe to do so, a party may apply to the court to seek a variation of the order.
For the latest information and updates, please visit the relevant court’s website:
Family law services
For further advice about your particular circumstances, the Family Relationship Advice Line is a free, national telephone service: 1800 050 321.
In addition, Family Relationship Centres offer a wide range of information and services to help families, whether together or separated, to build better relationships. If parents wish to access a service, we advise you to contact the service in the first instance by phone or email to find out how best to engage with them, given the current measures being put in place by organisations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. More information about Family Relationship Centres can be found on the Family Relationship Centres page.
Counselling and relationship support
Families are currently faced with the most challenging of times during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is support available, whether it’s through friends, family or your neighbours. You are encouraged to reach out and seek help to get through this crisis.
The Department of Social Services is supporting individuals and families through a range of measures. You can find more information on the Department of Social Services website.
- your mental health
It is important to prioritise your mental health in these challenging times. If you are feeling worried or anxious about COVID-19, you can help by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, by staying informed, staying positive and accessing support. You may also find some online and phone-based mental health resources helpful including:
- Kids Helpline – call 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue – web chat available between 3pm until midnight (AEDST) on the Beyond Blue website or call 1300 224 636 at any time of the day or night
- MindSpot – call 1800 614 434
- your children
The Australian parenting website raisingchildren.net.au has some helpful resources for you and your children – including tips on protective hygiene, positive thinking exercises for children, setting up routines and sharing screen time.
- your safety
Violence or abusive behaviour is never acceptable in any circumstances. If you require immediate assistance in an emergency or life threatening situation, contact Triple Zero (000). For further advice or information about domestic and family violence, 1800RESPECT is a free, national telephone service: 1800 737 732, and 1800RESPECT website.