Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its Impact on Family Law

Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Family Law Courts)

The family law courts have implemented a specific National Covid-19 List to address parenting matter related to parenting. Priority will be given to matters that are urgent.

The following criteria applies:-

  • The application has been filed as a direct result of, or if indirect, has a significant connection to, the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The matter is urgent or of a priority nature;
  • The application is accompanied by an Affidavit (using the COVID-19 template affidavit) that addresses all of the criteria;
  • If safe to do so, you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute but you were unsuccessful;
  • The matter can be dealt with using electronic means (e.g.: using telephone or videoconferencing).
How to file on the Covid-19 List?

To file on the Covid-19 list you need to file:-
– The Initiating Application (if you are not already in parenting proceedings in the family law courts) or an Application in a Case (if you have proceedings already on foot);
– A supporting affidavit of no more than 6 pages using the COVID-19 template affidavit;
– A cover letter advising that the matter is urgent (see Annexure to JPD1 of 2021); and
– A Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk (if you are commencing new parenting proceedings).
In your affidavit, address the following criteria:
– Why the matter is urgent or a priority;
– How the dispute is directly related, or has a significant connection to COVID-19;
– Details of any current allegations of risk to children or parties, such as a risk of child abuse or family violence;
– Details of the parties’ reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute through negotiation, or details of why it was not safe to attempt to resolve the dispute by negotiation;
– Details of how it is proposed the Respondent can be provided with a copy of the court documents, including information about the Respondent’s current email address and telephone number, including for any legal representative;
– Whether the Applicant seeks that the Respondent be served by email, and if so, the affidavit must include evidence that the Respondent has recently used that email address (e.g. annexing to the affidavit an email recently received from that email address); and
– If applicable, annexing (or attaching a photo or copy of) any current family law orders, parenting plans, or family violence orders, e.g. an intervention order or domestic violence order and details of any charges or convictions resulting from breaches of those family violence orders.

What happens next?

The first “return date” or first time you are before the court, you will most likely attend electronically via Microsoft Teams before a Registrar. You will have an opportunity to address the matters in dispute and with the assistance of the Registrar, have discussions with the other party to hopefully come up with a resolution.

The situation is constantly changing and evolving. If you would like to be up-to-date with the Family Court’s updates – please click on the link.  

Katrene Halteh, Urban Family Lawyers