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What do the New South Wales border closures mean for our parenting arrangements over the Christmas holidays?

Parenting Arrangements

As of 1am this morning (Tuesday 22 December, 2020), Queensland residents travelling from anywhere in New South Wales that is not a current declared hotspot must apply for a Queensland Border Declaration Pass before returning to Queensland. Further, anyone travelling from a declared hotspot can only enter Queensland by air and will be forced to quarantine in government-arranged accommodation at their own expense.

The above direction obviously has significant implications for children travelling between states in order to spend time with parents over the Christmas holidays. Fortunately, exemptions are available if travel is required in order to comply with a Court Order or if you have to fulfil an arrangement in relation to shared parenting or child contact. However, it is important to note that exemptions only relate to being able to enter the state, and government-mandated hotel quarantine may still be required in some cases.

My children are New South Wales residents who have been in a declared hotspot in the last 14 days, but I want them in Queensland before Christmas.  Is this possible?

Unfortunately, non-Queensland residents entering Queensland from a declared hotspot after 1am on Tuesday 22 December can only do so by air and will be forced to quarantine in government-arranged accommodation for 14 days at their own expense. If your children are New South Wales residents and you need to bring them back to Queensland, you are required to apply for a Queensland Border Declaration Pass on their behalf. Children will generally be permitted to enter the state if their travel is essential in order to comply with a Court Order or existing parenting arrangements. It is unlikely, however, that they will be exempt from the government-mandated hotel quarantine.  Therefore, you must apply for an exemption should you seek to avoid hotel quarantine. Given exemptions are only considered in exceptional circumstances, it is unlikely that compliance with Court Orders will be considered exceptional enough to warrant an exemption.

My children are New South Wales residents but they have not been in a declared hotspot in the last 14 days.  Can they still come to Queensland for Christmas?

Queensland residents and interstate visitors can travel into Queensland by vehicle so long as they have not been in a declared hotspot in the last 14 days and only after completing a Queensland Border Declaration Pass.

However, it is important to remember that all individuals travelling across the border, including children, must have a border pass and it is essential that you or the other parent completes this on behalf of your children before attempting to cross the border.

The person who is travelling across the border with the children must also apply for the border declaration pass, regardless of whether they are a Queensland resident or not, and even if they are not staying in Queensland past the point of dropping off their child as part of changeover.

The other parent/guardian is refusing to facilitate a changeover in light of these border closures.  What are my options?

If you are faced with a party who is resisting time on the basis of perceived risk, consider discussing their concerns with them. You may also be able to put their concerns at rest by entering into a clear agreement with regard to precautions to be adopted. A pro forma Agreement can be accessed here.

If they continue to refuse to facilitate time, we recommend getting in contact with your family lawyer as a matter of priority. Remember that failing to comply with existing parenting arrangements, particularly Court Orders, unless there is an immediate and serious risk to the child, will not be looked at favourably by the Court should the matter progress to litigation.

What are the consequences for failing to comply with an existing Court Order in relation to our parenting arrangements?

If you are contemplating restricting time between your children and their other parent, it is imperative that you do so only if there is an immediate and serious risk that cannot be alleviated by an agreement on precautions as above.

A Court Order must be complied with, and any breach will only be excused if you can establish a “reasonable excuse”. That excuse is unlikely to be well founded if you have prematurely or unjustifiably refused time with a co-parent who has proposed the implementation of reasonable precautions. Please also be conscious that a Court is likely to be highly critical and form an adverse view of your capacity to prioritise the children’s relationship with the other parent if you continue to expose the children to extended family members, friends, or public locations over the Christmas holidays, yet refuse to facilitate the child spending time with their other parent.

Whilst it goes without saying, in such a time of disruption, fear, and instability, children need the comfort and familiarity of both parents if possible.  Christmas is also an incredibly special and important time for children, and any hostility between separated parents should be avoided for the sake of your children.

If this article has raised any queries or concerns for you, we recommend that you urgently contact our team of family lawyers in Toowoomba as soon as possible, noting that our office will be closed from 5pm on Wednesday 23 December and will reopen at 8:30am on Monday 4 January.