Qld mum loses nation's first coronavirus custody fight

A BRISBANE mother has lost Australia's first coronavirus custody fight, after failing to see her twins during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The woman took her ex-husband to court to try to force him to send their twins from Melbourne to Brisbane during the Easter school holidays, when interstate borders were open for essential travel.

 But the first COVID-19 family law case published since the lockdown reveals that a Federal Circuit Court judge deemed it too dangerous for the 12-year-old twins to fly north to visit their mother. The judge ruled that the children should keep in touch with their mother using online meeting apps and games.

 The case went to court after the father, who lives with the children in Melbourne, raised concerns about sending them to Brisbane to visit their mum during the Easter holidays.

 The mother wanted the twins to visit her in Brisbane for 10 days, and promised to send them home early if the relevant state governments closed their borders.

 But Judge Alister McNab said it was in the best interests of the children to remain with their father until the end of COVID-19 lockdowns.

 "The risks associated with travel by air are matters that I have to take into account in considering whether the orders sought by the mother are in the best interests of the children,'' he wrote in a newly-published judgment. "There are considerable risks associated with transporting the children to the airport, travelling on an aircraft, and then travelling to the venue where they would be remaining in isolation for the entire period of their travel.

 "The risks are self-evident, having regard to the very stringent restrictions that have been applied to all citizens in Victoria and Queensland.''

 Judge McNab said the twins should spend "meaningful time'' with their mother each night using apps Zoom, Microsoft Teams or House Party, and catch up on the holiday time once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

 "This way the children can spend meaningful time with their mother in this particular time of a global health crisis without placing themselves at risk,'' he said. 

The mother had argued that Victorian and Queensland lockdown laws exempt children who are in shared custody arrangements and who need to move between homes.

 New COVID-19 rules for the Family Court and the Family Circuit Court willfast-track cases involving domestic violence for an online hearing within 72 hours.

Parents can ask a judge to change custody arrangements if a child or parent has tested positive for COVID-19 and "cannot fulfil the parenting obligations due to sickness or concerns of infection''. 

Divorced parents have been urged to negotiate "common sense" changes to children's living arrangements and child support payments during the coronavirus crisis.

Originally published as Brisbane mum loses coronavirus custody fight

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