In a recent decision by the Federal Circuit Court, a Father was granted interim unsupervised time with his six-year-old child due to complications caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.[1]

In 2014, the Federal Circuit Court granted the Mother sole parental responsibility of the child and permission to relocate from Melbourne to a regional town located 5 hours from Melbourne. The Court ordered that the Father’s time with the child be professionally supervised.

Since late 2017, the Father’s time with the child has been supervised by DHHS. Due to the intervention by DHHS and the issuance of a protection application, the jurisdiction of the FCC was removed under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DHHS submitted that they are unable to facilitate the Father’s supervised time with the child ‘due to Federal and State government directives in relation to COVID-19’.[2] An interim application for parenting orders was subsequently heard in the FCC by Judge McGuire on the basis that the DHHS deferred the jurisdiction to the FCC. The DHHS participated in the proceedings as amicus curiae, in support of the Mother’s position.

Judge McGuire considered the following submissions from the DHHS:

  1. That the Court should make orders for the Father to pay for supervision;
  2. That it may not be possible for the Father to arrange child supervised time due to the current status of COVID-19 and lockdown rules; and
  3. That continuing supervision is preferable as the Father lacks parenting skills and insight into the needs of the child.

Judge McGuire noted the availability of any professional supervisor was a real concern and a subsequent order for supervision would likely result in the child having no time/contact with his Father. In his opinion, the cessation of the relationship due to practicalities would be contrary to the child’s best interests.[3]

Ultimately, Judge McGuire made an interim order that the Father be permitted to spend unsupervised time with the child, in spite of objections by the Mother and the DHHS.

If you have COVID-19 issues associated with your parenting orders, please contact Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers to discuss.

[1] Aitken & Gladstone [2020] FCCA 966

[2] Aitken & Gladstone [2020] FCCA 966, 45.

[3] Aitken & Gladstone [2020] FCCA 966, 88.