The covid-19 pandemic is brining unprecedented challenges to many services and industries throughout our community, and child contact agencies are not exempted.
Many parents in Western Australia can only spend time with their children if the contact is supervised by a public or private agency, such as Anglicare WA or Building Bridges. These such agencies provide safe and positive contact arrangements for children whose parents are separated, or are in otherwise conflictual situations.
However, what will happen if these agencies temporarily close? How will you be able to see your children?
Every agency has been forced to modify their practice in alignment with Commonwealth and State Government Health Department recommendations, including the introduction of social distancing and eliminating face-to-face interactions. Some agencies, such as Relationships WA and Anglicare WA, have already ceased most face-to-face services and are providing supervision services over telephone or video conferencing.
See below for some practical tips about how to make sure that time with your children is not interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Be proactive and organised. Contact your supervision agency as soon as possible and find out whether they have any planned or current interruptions to their services. Some agencies are using electronic means to facilitate supervised contact, so make sure that you are ready in case your agency moves towards virtual supervised visits.
- Talk to the other party. If you have Court Orders stating that any contact you have is supervised through an agency, have discussions with the other party to see if they would agree to change the orders given the circumstances. You could suggest, for example, arranging for an independent third party to supervise your visits (such as a mutual friend or family member).
We advise you contact the other party, explain what your concerns are about the current court orders or parenting plan, and propose a reasonable solution. Be open to the other party’s input and suggestions.
Before talking to the other party, make sure you are not breaching any current court orders, restraining orders or other agreement. If the other party is represented, you should correspond with their solicitor.
- See a mediator. If you cannot come to a Covid-19 arrangement with the other party, consider utilising the services of a family dispute resolution mediator. Many mediators remain available to help work out Covid-19 parenting disputes, however most are operating remotely and online only.
- Make an application to the Court. If your agency has ceased supervision services and the other party will not agree to any changes to current orders, you may need to make an application with the Court. If you already have proceedings on foot with the Family Court of WA, this would likely involve filing a Form 2 Application in a Case and affidavit to vary the current court orders.
Keep in mind that the Court is still operating as normal during this Covid-19 crisis (although most hearings you will now attend over the telephone rather than in person and you cannot file documents in person), but there may be some delay to their services and receiving a court date. Hence, we advise trying to come to a solution outside of Court.
If you have any questions or concerns about child contact services of a family law matter in general, contact one of our friendly team members on (08) 6559 7480 or send us a Facebook message.
Author: Emma De Giorgio