What is clear during the January 2021 Perth lockdown is that shared parenting arrangements, including handover, is to continue. The Stay-At-Home and Closure Directions provides an exception to the requirement for one chosen principal place of residence. This specific exception is for the purpose of shared parenting arrangements, whether the arrangements are under a court order or otherwise.
After 10 months of no-community transmission in Western Australia, effective from Sunday 31 January 2021 until 6.00 pm, Friday 5 February 2021, the Perth metropolitan area and the Peel and South West regions will enter a 5-day lockdown.
The announcement has come as a great shock to most Western Australians who have lived an almost normal life for many months, being completely COVID-free. With this shock announcement (coming on the first week back to school for the year for most children), the uncertainty of what to do is rife.
Can handover of children between separated parents occur during a lockdown?
The short answer is, yes.
Handover of children between parents or guardians can occur, as per shared parenting arrangements in place, even if you do not have a court order in place.
For some more detailed information on COVID-19 and parenting arrangements (particularly where court orders are in place), visit our blog “How do the COVID-19 travel restrictions affect my Parenting Orders?”
What happens if my child is not returned?
If one parent decides not to return the child, the options are still available as per non-lockdown times. This being to urgently file an application with the Family Court of Western Australia for a Recovery Order for the child to be returned to the care, as per previous arrangements.
The Family Court of Western Australia has vacated most hearings during this lockdown period however, a Duty Registrar, Duty Magistrate and Duty Judge are all available to hear urgent applications during the lockdown period.
Priority will be given to those hearings where a child is at risk.
If you are in a position where your child is not being returned to you as agreed, communicating with the other party regarding the Stay-At-Home and Closure Directions (including reference to the exemption) may be all that is required in these uncertain times.
If you need assistance in communicating or negotiating this arrangement with the other parent or guardian, our office can assist you.
If this is ineffective in having the child returned to you, we can also assist you in the filing of an application in the Court.
Supporting my child during this time
There is uncertainty for adults in these times of significant change to our lives for the past 10 months. It can often be difficult to communicate this to our children.
Whilst our children may not have been immune to the daily news on COVID-19, the impact on their lives up until Sunday may have been very little.
Think Mental Health WA has a number of online resources to assist in communicating with children regarding coronavirus and offers of other supports if needed. Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Kids Helpline is also a valuable resource.
We are all in this together and hopeful this lockdown period will manage any other potential outbreaks.
Seek legal advice early
If you have any uncertainty regarding the legal implications of the lockdown on your shared parenting arrangement, please do not hesitate to contact us to assist you.
We are operating throughout this period, working from home but offering full services. Phone or video conferencing appointments are available.
Please call us if you require any assistance.
Perth: 08 6245 0855
Sydney: 02 9238 1958
We wish you and your children well during these uncertain times. Stay safe.
About the Author
Today’s article is written by family lawyer Kristie Smith. You can learn more about Kristie’s expertise and experience here or get in touch with her directly about your family law matters.
The information contained in this article is of general nature and should not be construed as legal advice.