In the age of the Coronavirus, communication by telephone or video call has been key to keeping families connected, particularly for families spread across multiple households.
But telephone communication, particularly video calls may not always be reliable.
For some families, parents may be bound by Orders in the Family Court of Federal Circuit Court in relation to facilitating communication between their children and their former spouse.
When technical difficulties arise with telephone/video communication, which prevent an order for communication from being fulfilled, those parents may be wondering – where do I stand?
A recent case in the Family Court of Australia decided in December 2019 looked into the difference between the cancellation of a call, and a call that has gone unanswered.1
In this case, it was alleged that the Mother had failed to facilitate contact between the child and her Father, as required by final Orders of the court. However, the evidence showed that while the Father had placed calls to speak to the child, many of those calls had been 'cancelled' before the call could be answered. There was little evidence to say that the child's phone actually rang on those occasions.
In circumstances where the call was 'cancelled', the Mother was not held to have breached the order for communication.
As a general rule, parents should do everything possible to facilitate any communication that is required by court Orders, to avoid the risk of a possible Contravention Application.
Things you can do to ensure communication is successful include:
- Keeping your former spouse updated with any change to your phone number or contact details (this may also be required as part of the orders)
- Keep that phone charged and easily accessible, particularly during the timeframe communication is due to occur
- When communicating by video call, try to ensure a stable internet connection (which may involve taking the call from home wherever possible, instead of being out and about).
Particular Apps have also been designed for families engaged in family law proceedings, to help them through the process. Certain Apps can assist you to keep a record of communication.
1 Adam v Tan  FamCA 964
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.