Co-Parenting: Navigating Through The MCO/共同抚养的父母:行动管制令期间对孩子的探望权限

Co-Parenting: Navigating Through The MCO

**可以在下方查看本文章的华文版本

The current COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many parents, especially for those divorced with children. Since the Movement Control Order (“MCO”) came into force on 18 March 2020, the daily routines of families have been drastically affected.

Pursuant to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within Infected Local Areas) (No 3) Regulations 2020, the movement of persons in Malaysia have been restricted whereby no one is allowed to move from one place to another except to: –

(a) purchase food, medicine, dietary supplement or daily necessities;

(b) supply or deliver food, medicine, dietary supplement or daily necessities;

(c) seek healthcare or medical services;

(d) procure any essential services other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) and (c);

(e) perform any official duty; or

(f) provide any essential services or perform any duty in relation to any essential services.

The latest regulations have also tightened the movement of persons further, where movement has been restricted to a radius of not more than ten kilometres for the purposes of (a) and (c) above.

The implementation of the MCO poses a problem to divorced or separated couples, who have an existing court order in respect of their custody, care and control over their child. For example, a non-custodial parent, who is entitled to access their child would now have trouble exercising their right to visit and access the child as this would not fall under the exceptions listed in (a) to (f) above.

What can co-parents do?

The best option for co-parents in this situation is to negotiate and come to an out of court agreement to temporarily modify the child’s custody and/or access arrangement while the MCO period remains in force. Alternative arrangements for the non-custodial parent to access the child through virtual means are also encouraged, such as allowing more frequent phone calls or video calls using technologies available out there.

Co-parents may also agree to replace the access time to a later date after the MCO is lifted. It is advisable that any agreement to deviate from a court order should be recorded in writing to avoid one party from alleging a breach of the court order later.

It is also important for the parents to explain to their child the change in his or her living arrangements or access schedules. This is to ensure their child understands why he or she is suddenly unable to spend time with the other parent.

As such, co-parents should always aim to be tolerant and understanding in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of the MCO should not be abused by the parents and is not an excuse for one parent to deny the other parent’s legal right to spend time with the child.

What if the other parent does not agree?

It might be justified for a parent to modify the custody or access arrangements temporarily without the other parent’s agreement if it can be shown that there is a good reason for doing so. This may include situations where a parent has been infected with the COVID-19 virus or has been in direct/close contact with someone infected and therefore, needs to be quarantined. A parent, who is putting the child’s health and safety at risk would constitute a good cause for the other parent to unilaterally modify the custody or access arrangements.

Since this is an unprecedented legal situation, it remains to be seen how the Family Court would interpret these circumstances in enforcing existing custody orders. In normal situations, the Court enforces existing orders strictly in which a parent violating a court order may be exposed to contempt proceedings.  However, it may be possible that the Court will approach the situation differently in light of this novel situation.

However, it is safe to say that all parents should aim to be reasonable and have the child’s best interest in mind as the Court would not tolerate any unreasonable behaviour from the parents especially if the welfare and safety of the child is affected.

The need for clearer directives and regulations from the government

With all these uncertainties and possible legal implications faced by parents, the Ministry of Health should perhaps issue guidelines or pass the appropriate regulations on how access to children could be arranged in conjunction with the MCO. It is perhaps best if the Malaysian government considers the compliance of an existing court order an “essential” activity in which access arrangements may continue, although movement and travel in transporting the child must still be kept to a reasonable limit.

That said, the Courts are prepared to be moved and urgent hearings can now be done virtually should such need arises.

By: Jaclyn Chang

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice and/or legal opinion. Messrs Yeoh & Joanne accepts no liability for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in this article.

 

共同抚养的父母:行动管制令期间对孩子的探望权限

 

当前的COVID-19流行病毒对许多父母可说是一个挑战,尤其是那些已离婚的父母并有孩子的。《行动管制令》自2020年3月18日生效以来,许多家庭的日常生活受到了严重影响。

根据《2020年预防及控制传染病(疫区内措施) (第3号)条例》,马来西亚人民的行动受到了限制,即任何人不得从任何疫区迁移至另一处,除非;

  • 购买食品、药品、膳食补充剂或者日用品;
  • 供应或运送食物、药物、膳食补充剂或日常必需品;
  • 寻求医疗保健或医疗服务;
  • 采购除于以上第(一)和(三)项所述服务以外的任何基本服务;
  • 执行任何公务;或者
  • 提供任何基本服务或履行与任何基本服务有关的任何职责。

最新的条例还进一步收紧了人民的移动范围。当人民需要因上文提及的第(一)和(三)项活动而移动时,他们的活动范围将被限制在不超过10公里范围内。

《行动管制令》的实施给已离婚或已分居的夫妇带来了许多问题。特别是已经拥有关于孩子的监护权和抚养权法院令的父母。例如,有权探视其孩子的非监护父母现在将难以行使他们拥有的孩子探视权,因为此活动并不属于上文第(一)至(六)项所所提及的例外情况。

那么有什么是共同抚养孩子的父母能做的呢?

在这种情况下,共同抚养孩子的父母的最佳选择是通过沟通与庭外协议的方式暂时修改儿童的监护和/或探视安排,以便在《行动管制令》期间仍然可以行使他们所拥有的孩子探视权。另外还鼓励非监护父母利用现有的通讯科技以暂时替代对孩子的实质探视权,例如进行更频繁的电话通话或视频通话。

共同抚养孩子的父母也可能可以协议在《行动管制令》结束后安排将之前无法行使的孩子探视权给弥补回来。可是必须切记,一切偏离法院令的任何协议都应以书面形式记录下来,以避免日后招到关于法院令被违反的指控。

父母向孩子解释他们在日常生活安排或探视时间表的变化也非常重要。这是为了确保孩子们理解为什么他们突然不能和另一个父母见面或消磨时间。

因此,鉴于当前的COVID-19流行病毒,共同抚养孩子的父母们必须以宽容和理解作为目标。《行动管制令》的实施不应被父母滥用,也不能成为监护父母一方拒绝或限制另一方与孩子共度时光的借口。

如果另一方父母不同意怎么办?

如果有充分的理由,父母一方可以在没有另一方同意的情况下暂时修改监护权或孩子探视安排。这可能包括其中一位父母感染了COVID-19病毒或与受感染的人有直接/密切接触,因此需要隔离的情况。该父母将孩子的健康和安全置于危险之中的行为将成为另一方单方面修改监护权或探视安排的有力理由。

由于这是一种无先例的的法律状况,家庭法院在执行现有监护令时将如何应对这些情况还有待观察。在正常情况下,法院将会严格执行现有的法庭令,即违反法院令的父母将可能面临藐视法庭控诉。然而,在这种前所未有的情况下,法院可能会以不同的方式处理这种情况。

然而,可以肯定地说,所有父母都应该要合理的处理问题,并以儿童的利益为大前提,因为法院不会容忍父母的任何不合理行为,特别是在儿童的利益和安全受到影响的情况下。 

政府需要给予更明确的指示和规定 

鉴于父母正在面临这些所有的不确定性和潜在的法律后果,卫生部或许应该发布指导方针或通过适当的条例,说明如何在《行动管制令》期间执行孩子探视权。也许最好的办法是马来西亚政府将遵守现有法院令列为一项“必要”活动,并允许该“必要”活动,以便受影响的父母们可以继续进行探访安排。尽管如此,在运送儿童的过程和路途仍必须保持在合理的限度内。

即便如此,法院已做好适当的准备,如有需要,法庭可以进行线上紧急听证。 

文章来自于:张美琪律师 (Jaclyn Chang Mei Qi)

文章翻译:李淑婷律师 (Lee Su Ting)

免责声明:本文仅供参考,不应作为法律建议和/或法律意见。Yeoh & Joanne 律师事务所不会承担因依赖本文所含信息而产生的任何损失的责任。

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