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The impact of the unexpected on parenting arrangements


Life is a bit like that magical box of chocolates referred to in our favorite movie. Sometimes it’s good and sweet, and sometimes it’s hard and a bit difficult to swallow.

Over the last 24 months or thereabouts, we have had isolation, masks, floods, road closures, mall closures, and re-openings.  So what does that mean for parenting orders or plans I hear you ask?

Essentially they can’t cover everything.  As much as most solicitors attempt to cover the main points needed in each matter, there can be things (like COVID and floods, storms, or power outages) that may occur, which are unforeseen.  To be frank, if every scenario that was imagined was covered in each order, not only would they be longer than War and Peace, but I am sure that even still situations would arise that had not been imagined.

It is really important that whenever a “new” or “unimagined” situation comes up, the following simple outline of steps should be taken by each of the parents:

  1. Communication. As long as it is safe to do so, it is important that both parents or decision-makers are aware of your particular situation, and your particular view on how it should be dealt with. Communication is a two-way street, and you must remember that both parents could have a different view and may need to be heard.
  2. Safety. If you are in a situation where one parent needs the child delivered to them and the parent can’t get there due to floodwaters (to cite an example of a very recent situation) – then consider what is a reasonable solution to the problem. It may be that one parent has extra hours, or night, and the changeover happens the following day. It is more important to have a safe changeover at the earliest possible time, rather than one which is fraught with danger or puts the child/parent at risk. Keeping that in mind, it is also important that both parents are open, and don’t “use” the situation to restrict the other parent’s time.
  3. Honesty. I refer to the above situation in this regard. Further, and in another example, COVID, there are now many parents and children who have been either close contacts or have had COVID. It is important that both parents are provided with this information. Essentially, COVID exposure may alter a contact centre’s ability to undertake changeovers so a safe and alternate location may be required. Further, the other parent should be provided with the opportunity to have alternate time, or forgo the time, if they are not in a position to take a child who is unwell, or is at serious risk if they are exposed via the child. Most parents, from my experience, manage a changeover and both care for the child, but if that is not going to suit your unique situation (as each one is) then you need to be able to speak up to the other party about this.
  4. Flexibility (if possible). You are both in this situation for a long time. You both need to be able to work together, in the best interests of your children, to ensure that their needs are met in the best way possible.

Regardless of whether we are experiencing fires, floods, COVID or any other natural event, parenting is not a one size fits all process.  It is not one where we can confirm we have every possible situation covered as that is not a realistic promise.  What we can do is attempt to work within a communicative plan, that provides for each party to have their view known, and work together as much as it is safe to do so.

If further assistance is needed of course, or the dispute becomes too big, please contact us to obtain advice from an experienced Toowoomba family lawyer.  To everyone who has been affected by the current flooding or COVID situations, we are sending our thoughts along with all of the best wishes we can.