The COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in reports of ‘exponential increases’ in family violence in the UK, USA and China. Experts consider that the stressors related to the pandemic, including economic, emotional, and psychological stressors, and isolation due to social distancing measures, have increased the risk factors for family violence.

The Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne, and Stage 3 restrictions in regional Victoria, and the Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 7) provide that an exception to the lock down measures in place are to allow a person to:

“escape harm or the risk of harm, including harm relating to family violence or violence of another person at the premises”.

In practical terms, for those escaping family violence, it is harder during the pandemic and Stages 3 and 4 to:

  • Remain in contact with family and friends and colleagues;
  • Access Domestic Violence Support Services and legal advice; and
  • Plan emergency accommodation for themselves and any children and pets.

In addition, the Magistrates Court system is attempting to manage a high-volume workload remotely in Melbourne and as directed in regional Courts and there is a constantly changing landscape of in person and remote hearings.

Applying for Intervention Orders during the pandemic

Parties may continue to apply for intervention orders in person and remotely in accordance with Practice Direction No. 22 of 2020. This practice direction applies to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and Courts located in metropolitan Melbourne (in place from Monday 5 October 2020) and allows for:

  1. The Magistrates’ Court to continue to hear interim intervention order applications;
  2. Applications can be made with the Police, in person at Court or via the online application form;
  3. Applications may be heard on the papers – by affidavit / declaration of truth;
  4. Attendance at Court in person as directed by the Family Violence Registrar or now online; and
  5. Hearings are proceeding via Webex.

Police may also issue a Family Violence Safety Notice if they consider it is, on reasonable grounds, necessary to ensure the safety of the affected family member pursuant to section 24(e) Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) which takes effect from time of service on Respondent by police.

Please see Practice Direction No. 21 of 2020 for Courts in Regional Victoria.

Parenting Applications during the pandemic

The COVID-19 List has continued to operate in the Family Law Courts to address COVID-19 related matters (i.e. parenting matters and financial matters where COVID-19 has impacted on the arrangements in place or the parties ability to meet an obligation pursuant to existing orders or agreements). The list is efficient and effective and requires all applications to be filed with a supporting Affidavit as required by the Joint Practice Direction 3 of 2020.

The Family Law Courts (Family Court and Federal Circuit Court) have continued to operate during the pandemic, remotely by telephone conferencing and by Microsoft Teams.

If you require assistance with a matter involving family violence, require a family violence intervention order, or have parenting or other family law matters which have impacted by COVID-19,  feel free to contact Justine Clark or one of our Family Law Team.

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