One of the most common questions we have received throughout the year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has been “am I able to withhold my children from my ex-partner because I am concerned about the risks of my children contracting coronavirus travelling between households?”
This question has been the subject of many urgent interim hearings in the Family Court’s COVID-19 list. In a recent case heard before the Family Court, the mother of a 4-year old was held to be in breach of interim parenting orders by withholding the child from the father without a reasonable excuse.
At the commencement of the pandemic, the mother obtained a medical certificate from a general practitioner that specified the child was ‘a person at risk of severe disease if he contracts COVID-19’, which certificate further recommended that the child stay at home and not attend the court ordered time with his father.
After the initial certificate by the general practitioner was issued, a further report was obtained from a paediatric clinic that specified the child’s condition was not considered to be “high-risk” for severe COVID-19 related illnesses and that ‘attending school is safe and that family members and contacts should comply with government implement social distancing recommendations.”
The mother continued to withhold the child from the father after the report was issued by the paediatric clinic.
The Court held that the mother did not have a reasonable basis for her belief that it was necessary to withhold the child from the father following receipt of the report by the paediatric clinic. The Court ordered that the father was to receive some make-up time for the periods of time that he lost while the child was being withheld.
With the Christmas holiday period upon us, it is important that parents abide by any Court ordered parenting arrangements without specific evidence or advice that it would be in the best interests of their child not to do so.
If you have concerns about your children travelling to spend time with their other parent because of the risks of contracting COVID-19, or if you consider your children have been withheld without a reasonable excuse, telephone our office on (02) 4943 3988 to speak with one of our family lawyers. We have years of experience helping people with their family law needs throughout the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter region.