In these unprecedented times, the impact of coronavirus (“COVID-19”) is far reaching. At Turnbull Hill Lawyers, we are available to answer any questions you may have about your family law matter. We are OPEN.
If your matter is in Court
The operation of the Family Law Courts has been impacted by COVID-19. There are guidelines around attending Court. Telephone attendances instead of personally attending at Court. Only urgent matters may require you to attend Court.
What about resolving family differences? How are they impacted by the virus?
COVID-19 will have an impact on parenting arrangements. There is speculation as to whether schools may close in the future in NSW or whether we will all be in self-isolation. This will have a significant impact on parenting orders.
If both parents are working and the children are required to be at home, this may require some negotiation as who cares for the children. Remember COVID-19 poses a greater risk for people aged over 70. It may not be appropriate to rely on grandparents or other carers.
Arrangements as to changeover of the children may need review particularly where changeover was occurring at school or day care. Parents need to think of alternate venues noting the government’s directives.
There is potential for an increase in breaches of parenting orders. The law provides that a parent may not be in contravention of an order if they have a reasonable excuse for breaching such order. It is difficult to say what constitutes a reasonable excuse. It would not be enough to allege that one parent does not have the same standards of hygiene as the other parent. If the government initiates compulsory self-isolation, it may be unreasonable to comply with Court orders if this means you are essentially banned from leaving your home.
To avoid breaches of orders, parents may need to negotiate changes to parenting agreements. We can assist you so is done in a manner that is documented to protect you. You will be assisted by obtaining legal advice prior to making any changes.
A change to parenting arrangements may have a direct impact on child support. You should contact the Child Support Agency directly or obtain legal advice particularly if the arrangement is subject to a Binding Child Support Agreement.
The effect of COVID-19 on the economy may directly impact your property settlement. For example, we have seen share values decline which in turn had a direct impact on superannuation entitlements. It could have a flow-on effect to businesses and employment. There is the possibility of superannuation being split or a business or any asset for that matter requiring a valuation, it may be appropriate to reconsider the current market factors. It may be advisable that the valuations of businesses and possibly real estate does not proceed.
Where Court orders are in place or where a financial agreement has been made setting out how the property settlement is to take place, this may be impacted by the current situation. For instance, there might be an agreement that a joint property be refinanced and transferred from one party to another. As a result of the current volatility, it may be difficult to comply with such an order and further negotiation be required.