The COVID-19 List in the Family Courts
Updated on Jan 14, 2022 • 4 min read • 219 views • Copy Link
The COVID-19 List in the Family Courts
In 2020, the family courts announced the introduction of a COVID-19 List to deal with urgent family law issues resulting directly from the Coronavirus crisis. The COVID-19 List was introduced in response to the large number of urgent parenting applications filed during March and April this year, which amounted to a 39% increase in the Family Court and a 23% increase in the Federal Circuit Court. Those two courts have now merged into the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA). The FCFCA also has a COVID-19 List.
The COVID-19 List
The COVID-19 List is a fast-tracked national court list to allow the FCFCA to urgently deal with COVID-19 related applications.
Who is eligible?
Applications will be considered for the COVID-19 List if:
- They have been filed as a direct result of the pandemic;
- The matter is urgent;
- Attempts to resolve the matter have been unsuccessful;
- The matter can be dealt with electronically;
- An affidavit accompanies the application addressing the following criteria:
- why the matter is urgent;
- how the dispute has arisen as a direct result of COVID-19;
- what risks of harm to children or parties are alleged to exist;
- what reasonable attempts have been made to resolve the dispute through negotiation, or why it was not safe to attempt this; and
- details of how it is proposed the other party can be provided with a copy of the court documents.
Where applicable, the affidavit should attach copies of any current family law orders, p, or family violence orders.
How does the COVID-19 List operate?
The COVID-19 list is overseen by the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA). It is administered by the National Registrars, who will consider the urgency of each application filed and may order that a matter be dealt with by electronic dispute resolution where appropriate.
Applications that are accepted into the COVID-19 List will be given a first return date (a court date where the application goes before a judge for the first time). The matter will be heard electronically on that date. The judge dealing with the CIVD-19 List will only deal with the issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and will put in place temporary orders. The remaining matters will be managed by the registrar.
Parties filing COVID-19 applications are still expected to comply with any requirements to attend dispute resolution if it is safe to do so.
Making a COVID-19 application
Applications to the COVID-19 List of the FCFCA must be filed by email at [email protected].
Applications must be accompanied by a cover letter for urgency and an affidavit of no more than six pages. This can be signed electronically and does not need to be signed by a witness. A Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk should also be filed.
A person making an application should copy the other party/ies into the email unless it is unsafe to do so.
Why the COVID-19 List?
The COVID-19 crisis, the closure of organisations and businesses and the implementation of social distancing measures has made of lot of existing parenting orders and parenting plans impossible to comply with. This may be because parents were required to have contact with children in a contact centre that is currently closed. It may be because the other parent lives interstate so sharing care of children is no longer possible due to closed borders. Difficulties with existing orders may also arise because a parent or a child has tested positive for COVID-19 or because a family violence situation has arisen or escalated due to the restrictions.
Responses to the announcement
Women’s Safety and Domestic Violence workers have welcomed the announcement, saying that high risk domestic violence situations have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 lock down measures and that the fast-tracking of applications in such cases would save lives.
The COVID-19 List is initially to operate for three months, but this will be reassessed at a later date.
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