Family Law Update – Expanded COVID-19 List
By Justine Clark
23 December 2020
The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have announced that they will be expanding the COVID-19 List from 20 January 2021.
The criteria for the list has been expanded to those family law matters which have been directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19 and matters that have had a significant connection to COVID-19.
The process for filing applications in the list has remained the same as in 2020 when implemented during the COVID-19. Once documents have been filed (an Initiating Application and Affidavit, and in some cases a Financial Statement), your matter will be triaged into urgent and non-urgent matters. If your matter is urgent it will be heard within 3 business days of filing before a Judge, Senior Registrar or Registrar. If your matter is not considered urgent, it will be assessed and then listed for an initial hearing within 7 business days. For those applications that have been filed in the list but do not meet the relevant criteria, they will be listed in the Duty Lists as is the usual practice for non-COVID-19 applications.
Some examples that meet the criteria for the COVID-19 expanded list include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Parties who are experiencing family violence which has increased or escalated.
- Where parenting orders have been suspended in an ex parte hearing (i.e. a hearing that occurs without one party being present at Court) pursuant to section 68R of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) due to family violence and one party is unable to spend time with the child/children. This usually occurs when one party seeks an intervention order and the children’s time with the other party is suspended due to the conditions detailing in the intervention order.
- Where a party is unable to comply with parenting orders due to medical matters. For example, a parent/child have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Disputes relating to vaccinating a child/children against COVID-19.
- Matters relating to supervised time where contact centres have been closed due to COVID-19 Government restrictions and the parties are unable to agree on alternative time arrangements.
- Where the parties are living in different states and they are having difficulties with respect to their child arrangements due to Government border restrictions or where one party wishes to travel overseas with the child/children.
- A party is suffering financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 and is not able to meet financial obligations pursuant to final property orders, a child support agreement or a financial agreement.
- Where one party refuses to resume the parenting arrangement in accordance with the parenting orders after restrictions have eased.
- Where a “front line health worker or engaged in other employment connected with COVID-19” has impacted the parenting arrangements or compliance with orders.
If you have any further questions regarding the expanded COVID-19 List or require advice in respect of your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact the Family Law Team via email to Justine Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 8600 9333.