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What impact does the delay of return to school mean for our family?

By 17 January 2022COVID-19, Parenting
What impact does the delay of return to school mean for our family

Two recent announcements made by the government in relation to COVID-19 will have major impacts for some separated families.  Firstly, children aged five to 11 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.  The return to school for Queensland students has also been pushed back to 7 February to avoid children returning to school during the predicted Omicron peak and to allow more time for children to get vaccinated.

In the first part of this two-part series, we provided some tips and information on what to do if you and the other parent have differing views on whether or not to vaccinate your children.  If you missed it, you can read that article here.

In this update, we’ll discuss the impact on parenting arrangements that the delay in returning to school might have for your family in circumstances where a parenting agreement or Order has already been documented.

With there being two additional weeks of school holiday time, some parents may be wishing for the other parent to assist with the care of the children, whilst others may see this as an opportunity to retain the children in their care for longer.  While the government and Courts have not specifically mandated how such care issues should be determined in light of this recent announcement, it is important to remember that whatever happens, the most important factor is what is in the best interests of the children.

If the current parenting agreement or Orders make reference to changeover occurring within a certain window of the first day back at school, and the children could cope with changeover occurring at this later date, then it may be appropriate to amend the previously agreed upon changeover date provided both parents are agreeable to this occurring.  If the children couldn’t cope with being away from the other parent for a longer period, then parents may need to think about the best way of sharing the two extra weeks of this holiday period.

The best option is, as always, to communicate with the other parent (as long as it is safe to do so) to ensure that the current parenting agreement or Orders are complied with and the children’s best interests are maintained.  Similar to our discussion about vaccination disputes, this is a matter that could be amicably settled with negotiation and communication. We completely appreciate that this is often easier said than done for some families, and if you feel that you may need assistance communicating with the other parent, we recommend getting in touch with an experienced family lawyer to help you navigate this conversation.

While the Queensland government initially made some comments about changing the end of year holiday period for this year to accommodate the late recommencement of school in 2022, this idea seems to have now been reconsidered and is not going ahead. Despite this, it is always a good idea to seek advice regarding parenting arrangements for school holidays early so that the end of the year can be sorted out prior to the holiday time commencing. We will usually suggest negotiation, mediation, or attempting an amicable and considered dispute resolution (whether that involves others or the parents involved), but in the more unusual situation where a judicial determination is needed to finalise a dispute, the matter must be appropriately bought before the court. This process has recently changed (1 September 2021) and the Court now has a “due date” for filing applications relating to Christmas holiday time, and as such, it is important that you contact us for up to date and appropriate legal advice on options, and methods of dispute resolution, as soon as possible.

If this article has raised any concerns for your set of circumstances, call our team of expert family lawyers in Toowoomba  on 07 4639 0000 or fill out a contact form here.