The Covid 19 pandemic has created chaos for the lives of many people and industries. Within the Family Law and wider legal industry, the effects have largely been to cause lawyers to adapt to new ways of practice and for Courts to modify how they operate. Obviously, the thrust of these changes is to remove/reduce physical contact and interactions.
For Gold Coast Family Lawyers with clients in Border Zones there are increased challenges in parenting matters when Orders are in place, but children live at different times on both sides of the border.
I live in a Northern New South Wales in a border zone and commute to my Gold Coast and Victoria Point law practices, and thus do a cross border commute each day. Having lived with this situation for some time, and having clients regularly asking me how the border rules work, I thought it might be a good topic to write about this week.
Border Restrictions Direction 12
At the moment, Border Restrictions Direction 12 is in effect from 1.00 am Thursday 20 August 2020 until 2 October 2020 unless it is extended by regulation (and my money is on it being extended).
The restrictions are made under the Public Health Act 2005, when on 29 January 2020 the Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services made an order declaring a public health emergency in relation to COVID 19.
The direction requires that all people who come into Queensland practice “social distancing” which means staying within 1.5 metres of another person and regularly washing hands.
A person entering Queensland from New South Wales must obtain a Queensland Border Declaration Pass and provide an undertaking to present for a COVID 19 test if they develop COVID 19 symptoms.
To obtain a Border Declaration Pass you must declare via the website the following information regarding the last 14 days:
- Whether you have been overseas.
- Have you been to COVID 19 “hotspot” or been in contact with an infected person?
- Whether you have COVID 19 (entry will be denied).
The information required on the declaration is:
- Name, date of birth, phone number, address and email address.
- Evidence of identity such as a driver’s license or Medicare care card.
- For a border resident, state the post code to establish that the person if from a border zone. A “border zone” is one of the post codes set out in the schedule of the
The Border Declaration Pass is valid for the following periods:
- Expires after 7 days from the day the declaration is made; or
- If any of the person’s circumstances have changed since making the declaration.
There are some people who are not required to provide a border declaration pass. These people are:
- Someone responding to an emergency in Queensland and performing an essential activity related to national or state security, police, health or emergency services.
- A maritime crew under the Protocol for Maritime Crew approved by the Chief Health Officer.
- A prisoner remanded in custody subject to an extradition order who is required to enter Queensland to comply with a court order or assist with an investigation at the direction of the law enforcement agency.
Quarantine is necessary if a person entering Queensland:
- Has travelled overseas in the prior 14 days.
- Has had contact with a person who is a confirmed case of COVID 19,
- Has been in a COVID 19 hotspot.
- Has had symptoms consistent with COVID 19.
- Is a border zone resident who is a Queensland resident who traveled outside the border zone in New South Wales.
Conflict between Parenting Order and the COVID 19 restrictions
People are required to meet their obligations under Parenting Orders unless either the parent or the child is restricted by the COVID 19 rules. Thus, if the children cannot travel interstate because of restrictions this would likely be determined to be a “reasonable excuse” and a defense to a breach of a Parenting Order. As with any Contravention Application ultimately each case is decided on its particular facts.
For this reason, before a parent decides to breach an Order because of COVID 19, it would be prudent to look closely at the current state of the border restrictions and make sure that the information or understanding being acted upon is up to date and correct. Given that the rules can change swiftly this needs to be reviewed from time to time.
If a parent’s time cannot occur, alternative contact should be negotiated. Ultimately it is children who have the right to contact with their parents and coming up with a creative solution is a “child focused” response when COVID 19 gets in the way.
Family law advice
If you have any queries in relation to separation, divorce, de facto relationships, property settlement or child support payments, my firm Hooper Family Lawyers can assist you with practical advice.
We are family lawyers servicing all areas in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast.