Do Supervised Visits continue during COVID-19 & Lockdown?
Children in FOCUS continue to provide face-to-face or via Zoom supervised contact visits throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. We follow COVID-19 safe practices: regular hands washing/sanitising, wearing masks when necessary and social distancing from others.
The recent COVID-19 Lockdown has caused a lot of uncertainty to the public. This uncertainty has been felt by separated families who are currently using supervised contact services.
In an attempt to provide some clarity for the separated parents we work with, Children in FOCUS have put together several answers to some of the frequently asked questions we have received. Please be advised that this information is not legal advice. It is essential that you consult your lawyer regarding your specific circumstances.
Q & A
- Will supervised visits/Court-ordered visits continue during the COVID-19 Lockdown?
Children in FOCUS is an essential service and will continue to facilitate face-to-face or via Zoom supervised contact visits for existing and new clients.
- Can I leave my house during the Lockdown to deliver child/ren to the changeover location/ to attend supervised visits/ to pick up my children from the other parent?
Yes, you can leave your home during the Lockdown for the purpose of fulfilling your obligations under a Parenting Plan, Parenting Court Order, or other parenting arrangements.
According to the NSW COVID-19 webpage, one of the reasonable excuses to leave home during the Lockdown is to “continue an existing arrangement for access to, and contact between, parents, children, and siblings”.
Chief Justice of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia Hon William Alstergren released a statement regarding parenting orders during the COVID-19 Lockdown:
”Parents are still expected to comply with court orders in relation to parenting arrangements. This includes facilitating time being spent by the children with each parent or carer pursuant to parenting orders. It is imperative that, even if the orders cannot be strictly adhered to and are varied by the parties, the parties ensure that the purpose or spirit of the orders are respected when considering altering arrangements, and that they act in the best interest of the children”.
It is important that parents are aware that refusal to comply with parenting orders during the COVID-19 Lockdown could be considered a contravention of Court orders. If parents decide not to attend arranged visits or withhold the child/ren without an agreement from both parties and their legal representatives, their actions are viewed as contravening their court order, in and out of Lockdown. This is because the Family Court has clearly stated that the Lockdown is not a liable reason for stopping contact without reasonable explanation and negotiation.
- Do I have to follow Family Court orders if I am worried about my children or me getting COVID-19?
Parents are expected to follow Family Court orders during the Lockdown unless there is an unacceptable risk of harm to the children. This information needs to be communicated to the other parents via legal representatives and alternative arrangements made for the make-up time.
- Where will supervised contact occur if our usual location (e.g. Bowling, play centre, Monkey Mania, Cafe, Library) is currently closed?
An alternative visit location must be agreed upon between the parents via their lawyers. We currently facilitate supervised visits in parent’s homes, in outdoor areas such as parks and via Zoom.
Make-up time post-lockdown visitations can also be arranged. Please note all changes and negotiations must occur alongside your lawyers. It is not our role to negotiate these changes for the parents.
- Can I hug and kiss my children if social distancing rules apply?
For in-person visits, parents are allowed to hug and kiss their children. However, it may be in the best interest of all parties to avoid kissing on the lips and face to limit the threat of virus transmission.
- What safety precautions will I have to take when attending supervised visits?
Parents need to socially distance from our supervisors, wear masks for indoor venues and regularly wash or sanitise yours and your child/ren's hands: at the beginning of the visit, after play and before each meal. Our supervisors will wear masks, sanitise their hands and maintain social distancing where possible, to do their job properly and ensure they can see and hear everything.
If you or your children are unwell or have flu/cold like symptoms please let us know as soon as possible, get COVID tested and postpone the visit until you have the negative test results.
- What should I do when I have a Court order allowing me to see my children, but my ex-partner is withholding my children from me during the Lockdown?
Parents must follow their Court orders and ensure their child’s visitation routine is continued. It is a difficult time for everyone, especially for children. It is important that children spend time with both parents, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and associated Lockdowns. Parents must be aware that refusal to comply with parenting orders and withholding a child from visitations with the other parent could constitute a contravention of a Court order. It is best to discuss any issues with your family lawyer, who will be able to give you legal advice according to your specific circumstances.