FIVE POINTS FOR CLIENTS NAVIGATING COVID-19 – A FAMILY LAW PERSPECTIVE
The current health climate has brought along with it a range of questions and uncertainties, and introduced additional pressures and stresses associated with the pandemic. To assist clients (and service providers alike) in navigating these times whilst simultaneously managing their family law matters, the following five points for clients to navigate Covid-19 can assist clients during this period and help to alleviate some of the associated uncertainties:
THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTIES AND PRACTITIONERS NOT EXACERBATING ISSUES
Per the recent advice from the Legal Services Commissioner, it is imperative that whilst clients may be tempted to use present circumstances brought on by the global pandemic for their own personal benefit, practitioners have a duty to inform their clients that it is not appropriate to engage in sharp practice or exploit those who are vulnerable. For example, a client may be unreasonably withholding a child (contrary to a court order or parenting plan) on the basis that the child should not leave the home due to the pandemic. Parents should exercise their best judgement and a common-sense approach to determine what is, and what is not appropriate in the circumstances and seek alternative solutions, rather than exploiting the pandemic for personal gain.
COMPLYING WITH OBLIGATIONS
The pandemic does not provide an excuse for parties to ignore and unilaterally change their obligations pursuant to court orders and agreements. Unless a reasonable excuse applies, obligations to court order and/or agreements must be adhered to. In the event that a diversion from a current arrangement is unavoidable, again, parties should use a reasonable and common sense approach to find solutions to challenges. Affording the other party adequate notice if a change is anticipated, along with employing a solution-focussed approach, will help to avoid unnecessary
SEEK INTERMEDIATE SOLUTIONS
Access to the courts and the resulting delay to the progression of matters is understandably a primary concern parties may be experiencing. As such, parties can seek alternative dispute resolution solutions for discrete issues that require a timely response. Mathews Family Law and Mediation Services is available to provide interim FDR (parenting) and mediation (financial) to address such issues, with sessions that can be tailored to meet the clients particular needs, including shorter or longer sessions depending on the complexity of the issues.
BE ADAPTIVE, COOPERATIVE AND SOLUTION-FOCUSSED
We are all currently being required to adapt to changes in circumstances, whether they be working from home, or meeting with family and friends digitally as opposed to in-person. If, in a parenting matter for example, time arrangements with a parent or other person is unable to occur, rather than cancelling that time altogether, seek alternative methods to meet those obligations, such as video conferencing and/or– other digital communications. Wherever possible, engaging in honest, open and pragmatic communication with the other parent will assist in navigating the difficulties with changed circumstances.
STAY HEALTHY – MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY
The importance of maintaining your mental and physical wellbeing is imperative, particularly in circumstances where you are unable to do so in the manner that you are accustomed. If working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and establishing a dedicated workspace. Try to maintain an exercise routine – for example, following an online training class, or even taking a walk around the block.
If you would like to discuss your client’s particular interim issues and how Mathews Family Law may work with you to best assist and assure them, please contact us on (03) 9804 7991 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.