My property and income have been affected by COVID-19, will this impact my Family Law matter?

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

 

Family Law COVID-19 FAQ’s: Part Three

 

Many industries, investments, and businesses have been negatively affected by COVID.

If your financial circumstances have significantly changed this will impact your matter.

When reaching a financial property settlement, the law requires consideration of each parties’ future needs and earning capacity.

If you are temporarily unable to work or your business is not as profitable as it once was due to COVID this may not necessarily affect your earning capacity in the future. However, it may affect your future needs if your investments, assets, or savings have been depleted as a result and will in any event impact your financial property settlement.

Can I access support and maintenance in light of COVID-19?

Other than receiving increased support through changes to your anticipated property settlement you may also have relief available to you by way of spousal maintenance or child support orders.

If you were not previously receiving any spousal maintenance or child support, but now have reduced income as a result of COVID, where your partner does not have reduced income you may be able to seek support. If you were receiving maintenance or support but it is no longer enough due to your reduced income, it may be possible to vary your maintenance or support terms, depending on the circumstances of the other party.

In the alternative, if you were already paying spousal maintenance or child support but your own income has now been reduced, you will likely be able to vary the terms of the agreement to reflect your current circumstances.

If you cannot vary terms or seek support by agreement you may need to make an application to the Court.

Family law is a complex area which requires consideration of relevant time limits, needs, and financial circumstances of each party and therefore it is always recommended that you obtain legal advice before making an application to the Court.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any queries in relation to the above answers or if you wish to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your family law matter further.

Disclaimer:  This article is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

Is my child in breach of social distancing requirements at the other parent’s home?

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

 

Family Law COVID-19 FAQ’s: Part Two

 

Many parents have parenting plans, orders, or arrangements in place which require their child to move between their house and their partner’s house. Children moving between their respective households will not be in breach of the COVID directions.

Some parents have expressed concerns that when their child is at the other parent’s house there are more than the allowed number of people at the premises.

In relation to such gatherings the current Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA) Section 71 And 72a Closure And Restriction (Limit The Spread) Directions (No 3) defines as prohibited  a gathering of more than twenty (20) persons in a single undivided indoor space or a single undivided outdoor space that is a public place at the same time.

However, the Directions go on to list a number of exceptions which include a gathering in an indoor space or an outdoor space where everyone in the gathering is a member of the same household.

A household is further defined as two or more persons who usually reside at the same place, irrespective of whether those persons are related to each other and includes by way of the specific example that a child who usually moves between the child’s father’s home and the child’s mother’s home on a week-about basis is part of the father’s household when the child is living with the father and is part of the mother’s household when the child is living with the mother.

This means that your child will be considered part of both their parents’ households and will be exempt to the twenty (20) people gathering limit while at either parents’ house.  That is, the usual occupants of that family member’s household.  Although in theory twenty people might be gathered, most Western Australian households’ have many less than 20. 

What can I do if my usual drop off or pick up location is closed?

We understand that there are many different directions and restrictions in place which make it difficult to strictly comply with parenting plans, orders, or arrangements in the current situation.

A common example of this is when the agreed pickup and drop off location, or the location where time is to be spent, is closed.

We recommend, if it is possible, communicating with the other parent in the simplest manner, by text or email and attempting to find a solution which keeps in view the best interests of the child.

If any agreement is reached, even if it is temporary, ensure that it is in writing.

This is a very difficult time for everyone, and it is important to understand that people will have different experiences, concerns, and responses with respect to COVID. Even when acting sensibly or in the best interests of a child an agreement may not be reached, where this occurs further guidance or legal advice should be sought.

 

Travel Bans

Originally WA had in place a strict regional travel ban which meant that people were generally not able to enter a regional area from another regional area or move between regions.

From 18 May 2020 the regional travel restrictions have been eased to provide for travel within the following expanded regions:

  • Perth, Peel Region, the South West, and the Great Southern region;
  • the Mid West region, Gascoyne, and Pilbara;
  • the gold fields and Esperance region; and
  • the Kimberly.

Persons still must not move between the expanded regions, only within them.

The regional travel bans have always provided a variety of exemptions for travel between regions. The exemptions include traveling between regions if it is necessary for the person to do so for the purpose of fulfilling their obligations under a parenting plan, parenting order of a court or other parenting arrangements.

This means that where your parenting plan, order, or arrangements requires travel between regions it should continue as normal.

We recommend you keep a copy of your parenting plan, order, or arrangements with you when traveling between regions or alternatively apply for a G2G PASS. The G2G PASS is an app which allows you to apply for approval to travel regionals for your approved purpose in advance.

The WA state border remains closed and travel is not permitted into WA unless an exemption is granted.

If your parenting plan, order, or arrangements require travel interstate and this is no longer possible due to the impact of COVID (such as travel restrictions, or no availability of flights, or directions put into place by other States or Territories) you must still attempt to comply as much as reasonably possible.

We recommend having a conversation with your child’s other parent and attempting to reach an agreement, if possible. This could include increased video calls in lieu of time spent or make up time to be arranged once the restrictions have eased.

You should be careful to use your best efforts and not use COVID-19 as justification for reducing your child’s time with the other parent.

If your relationship with the other parent is strained, we recommend you obtain the assistance of lawyers to assist you in reaching an agreement and ensuring parenting plans, orders, or arrangements are complied with as much as reasonably possible

Family Law COVID-19 FAQ’s: Part One

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

On 15 March 2020, the Minister for Emergency Services declared a state of emergency in respect of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 pursuant to section 56 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA).

On 23 March 2020, the Minister for Health declared a public health state of emergency in respect of COVID-19 pursuant to section 167 of the Public Health Act 2016 (WA).

Since a state of emergency has applied in WA there have been a variety of directions put into place by the government to prevent, control or abate the serious public health risk presented by COVID-19.

This is resulted in significant queries arising among Family Law clients. We have aimed to address some of these frequently asked questions here.

Will my Family Law matter still progress?

Most family law matters are able to progress as they usually would due to the fact that the Court and most law firms are continuing to operate as normal, subject to appropriate social distancing guidelines and government regulations.

Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky is open for business and our employees are fully accessible via email and telephone. We remain available to assist our clients and can arrange meetings via phone or digital meeting technology. If necessary, our offices can also be made available at the current time for critical face to face meetings.

Is the Family Court of Western Australia Still Open?

The Family Court of Western Australia remains open and continues to perform its duties.

While the Court is open, it is encouraged that only the necessary legal practitioners, parties, and support people attend Court. Further, anyone who has flu-like symptoms or has travelled overseas in the last 14 days must not enter the Court premises.

The front counter services at the Court have been temporarily suspended, however registry services are still offered. Documents can be lodged remotely via the Court Portal, post, email, or alternatively in person at the Court’s secure drop box.

All listed hearings and conferences will continue if practicable and will be conducted by telephone.

As there are a number of practical issues in running a Trial via telephone or video-link and in light of other COVID restrictions the a number of  listed Trials are being vacated. The Court does have capacity to conduct some trials electronically where suitable. Relevant factors to consider include the number of parties and witnesses, the location of the parties and witnesses, the ability of parties and witnesses to attend personally or by way of video or telephone, anticipated evidence, urgency of the matters to be determined at Trial, and whether the Trial will remain procedurally fair and adequate to enable a proper determination of the matters in issue.