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COVID-19 AND THE FAMILY COURTS

Fiona Johnson | 5 May 2020 | Family Law

The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately seen an increase in urgent issues arising in some separated families. This has included families impacted by state border closures, families impacted by the closure of supervised contact centre’s and sadly an increase in family violence. 

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are continuing to operate during these uncertain times using a combination of technologies, including using telephone and video conferences for Court appearances. The Courts have also created a specialised dedicated Court list, the COVID-19 List, to provide additional assistance to Australian families during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 List will allow separated families that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic priority access to the Courts. This will allow decisions to be made in these parenting cases as soon as possible.

The COVID-19 List is only for parenting matters that are urgent and where an application with the Court has been filed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of matters that would be suitable for the COVID-19 list include:

  • Matters where parents had been using a supervised contact centre to facilitate visits between a child and one of their parents, and as a result of COVID-19 the contact centre is now closed and the parents cannot reach an agreement on how to proceed with the care arrangements.
  • Matters where parents live in different States or Territories and the border restrictions impact a child’s time with one of their parents.
  • Matters where a child is considered high-risk of catching COVID-19 and the parents cannot agree on how to proceed with their care arrangements during the pandemic.
  • Matters where there has been an increase in risk due to family violence resulting from the restrictions imposed on families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 List will operate in each Court, including here in Newcastle. Applications that are eligible for the COVID-19 List will be prioritised and reviewed by the National COVID-19 List Registrars. The Registrars will consider the urgency of each application. Matters will then be given a first Court date before a Registrar or a Judge within three business days, or less if a case is assessed as critically urgent. 

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 List or family law please contact our Family Law Team today on (02) 4926 6000. Yes, we can help.  

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