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Guidelines issued by Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia regarding operation of Evatt List

By Kathleen Coggins / 30 September 2021

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has recently issued guidelines in respect of the operation of the Evatt List, including in relation to the involvement of an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL). 

The Evatt List is a specialised case management system established to resolve high risk matters. The aim of the Evatt List is to minimise the risk of trauma and harm by ensuring high risk families are provided with appropriate resources and support and by managing their matters as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

Types of matters included in the Evatt List

The Evatt List is currently being trialled in three registries of the FCFCOA across Australia, including Brisbane. Parties are eligible to be included in the Evatt List if their matter relates to parenting orders only. This does not include the following types of matters:

  • cases where parenting and property orders are sought together;
  • child support and child maintenance cases; and
  • contravention applications.

At least one party must have completed a Family DOORS Triage Risk screening and returned a high risk screening classification (as opposed to low or moderate risk). This is an online risk screening questionnaire which is completed upon the filing of a parenting application or response. 

Answers to the questionnaire cannot be used as evidence in proceedings and cannot be seen by the other party. 

Management of cases in Evatt list – Preliminary chambers listings and first Court event

Within five business days of a person screening as high risk, a first chambers listing will occur before an Evatt List Judicial Registrar. No appearances are required. The purpose of the listing is to:

  • confirm the matter is suitable for the Evatt List;
  • consider any section 60I exemption (to participate in family dispute resolution) or short notice application;
  • refer the matter to the Magellan Registrar if appropriate;
  • make directions for the filing of response material;
  • consider orders for an ICL (it is anticipated that an ICL will be immediately appointed);
  • consider what directions might be needed to gather information such as subpoenas;
  • consider orders for a section 62G family report to be undertaken by Court Children’s Service, and
  • list the matter for the first Court event.

There may be another chambers hearing before the Evatt List Judicial Registrar to check compliance with the directions made, make orders for the inspection of documents, or to follow up on the information gathering process. 

The aim is for there to be as much independent evidence before the Court by the time the matter is listed for the first Court event.

After the preliminary chambers listings, the first Court event will be held at which time the Court will:

  • conduct an interim hearing, if necessary;
  • undertake case management to determine the future conduct of the case;
  • make trial directions, providing there are no outstanding interim applications.

It is very unlikely that the first Court event will be adjourned. 

Management of cases in Evatt list – Trial directions, compliance check and trial

The intention of matters in the Evatt List is that trial directions will be made within three to six months of their initial screening. A Trial Plan form is to be completed by each party prior to the listing, outlining details regarding potential witnesses, the estimated length of trial, the issues in dispute, any family violence orders or criminal proceedings and whether a party is unrepresented or may become unrepresented.

If the trial directions have been complied with, and the experts report has been released, the parties are to complete a compliance certification no later than 48 hours prior to the compliance check listing. If all matters have been complied with and there are no changes to the estimated hearing days, the compliance check may be vacated and the matter immediately referred for trial dates. 

If the compliance check is still required, the Evatt Judicial Registrar will:

  • confirm there is compliance with the trial directions;
  • allow one adjournment only for non-compliance (if there is no compliance on the second compliance check, the matter will be listed for an undefended hearing or further case management directions); 
  • consider any settlement or dispute resolution options; 
  • consider any costs orders for non-compliance; and 
  • list the matter for trial.

The intention is that a final trial will occur as quickly as possible, preferably, within nine to 12 months.

Independent Children’s Lawyer in Evatt List

The FCFCOA has also released a number of guidelines in relation to the involvement of an ICL in matters included in the Evatt List. In particular, the ICL should consider:

  • meeting with the children upon their appointment; 
  • the inspection of material produced in the proceedings including any State Court files; 
  • any subpoenas to issue;
  • contacting treating health professionals, schools, contact centres and/or supervisors;
  • making submissions at the first Court event as to the most appropriate parenting orders;
  • the most appropriate reports to be prepared; and
  • whether family dispute resolution is appropriate. 

If you have any queries in relation to the management of issues surrounding risk in family law proceedings, or any other family law issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family and Relationship Law team

Authors
Kathleen Coggins
Special Counsel
Kathleen is a Special Counsel practising exclusively in Family and Relationship law.

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