How the new “COVID19 List” is fast-tracking your application in the Family Law Courts

By Lisa Lahey and Emily Ownsworth / 05 May 2020

On 28 April 2020, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia released the third joint practice direction of 2020 enabling you to make an urgent application for issues arising as a direct result of the COVID19 pandemic.

In this article Partner, Lisa Lahey and Associate, Emily Ownsworth outline the criteria and requirements of filing an application in the COVID-19 List.

Specifically, the practice direction announced the introduction of a fast-tracked “COVID-19 List” in each Court as unsurprisingly, the pandemic has taken a considerable toll on family law matters. This includes circumstances where: 

  • supervised contact is no longer able to occur due to contact centres being closed;
  • either parent being infected by the coronavirus;
  • one parent lives in another state or territory limiting travel possibilities to facilitate time with their child/ren as previously agreed; and
  • parents are withholding their child/ren, deeming it “unsafe” to spend time with the other parent.

The COVID19 List has been implemented to deal with such matters as described above and to ensure it is dealt with in a timely manner. For a matter to be eligible, the following criteria must be met:

  • the application has been filed as a direct result of the COVID19 pandemic and is supported by an affidavit;
  • the matter must be urgent;
  • reasonable attempts have been made to resolve the issue; and
  • the matter can be heard via electronic means. 

In conjunction with the application and affidavit, a Notice of Risk (if filed in the Federal Circuit Court)/Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (if filed in the Family Court of Australia) must be filed.
When drafting the affidavit, it must be a maximum of 6 pages and address the following:

  • why the matter is urgent;
  • how the issues arose as a direct result of COVID19;
  • information regarding any allegation of risk to the children or parties;
  • the attempts that have been made to resolve the issues, or if no attempts have been made, why it has been unsafe to do so;
  • how service is to be affected on the other party whilst maintaining COVID19 restrictions; and
  • if applicable, providing copies of any current family law orders, parenting plans or domestic violence orders. 

Alternative to filing in person, an application filed in the COVID19 List must be sent via email to the respective court registry. When emailing the documents, the other party must be copied into the email so they are put on notice at the earliest opportunity that proceedings have been commenced. 

All COVID19 Lists are dealt with electronically ensuring that any applications filed can be heard by a Judge from any Registry. 

If you have recently experienced disputes with your former spouse that have arisen as a direct result of the COVID19 pandemic, you should seek legal advice to assess the options available to you to resolve the dispute. 

For further information or discussion, please contact our Family and Relationship Law team. 

Lisa Lahey
Lisa is a Partner in our Family and Relationship law practice with over 25 years of experience advising on all facets of family law, including complex property and children’s matters.
Emily Ownsworth
Emily Ownsworth is an Associate in our Family and Relationship Law practice.

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