The Covid-19 List and Family Law Court Australia

On Wednesday 29th April, 2020, the Family Law Court in Australia saw the establishment of the Covid-19 List (also referred to as a Joint Practice Direction): a list dedicated to dealing with urgent family law disputes that may have arisen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the months of March and April this year, the courts saw a 39% increase in urgent parenting applications in the Family Court, and a 23% increase in the Federal Circuit Court. Here’s everything you need to know about how this Joint Practice Direction applies to urgent family law matters in Australia.

How Does it Work?

The Covid-19 List is managed by the National Registrars, who will assess whether or not an application meets the required criteria in order for a matter to be dealt with electronically.

Applicants must first fill out an application and submit it alongside a supporting Covid-19 affidavit of no more than 6 pages, a cover letter outlining that the matter is urgent, and a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (only if applicable). To find out what else must be included with your application, speak to our lawyers.

An application must meet the following criteria as set out by the family law court in Australia.

  • It must be filed as a direct result of Covid-19;
  • The matter is urgent;
  • It must be accompanied by an affidavit;
  • The applicant must have made reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute without being successful (if safe to do so); and
  • The matter can be dealt with electronically (i.e. by telephone or video conferencing)

The affidavit must meet the following criteria:

  • Outline why the matter is urgent;
  • Explain how the dispute arose as a result of Covid-19;
  • Explain any risks of harm to children or parties;
  • Describe what reasonable attempts have been made to resolve the dispute through negotiation, and why it wasn’t safe to do so; and
  • Propose how the other party can be provided with a copy of the court documents.

Applications that meet this criteria will be given a first return date (a date for the first time the parties will appear before the Judge in court) within 3 business days of the application being assessed. If the matter is critically urgent, the first return date will be less than 3 days. An issue may be dealt with via a virtual hearing before a Judge, a virtual hearing before a Registrar, or an electronic family dispute resolution or mediation session with a Registrar.

Should the application not meet the criteria set out above, applicants will be notified and the matter will be sent to the nearest Court for processing. The first return date may be 4 to 6 weeks from filing the application.

Potential Applications Suitable for Filing

The family law court in Australia may accept the following application examples:

  • There has been increased risk of safety due to a family violence issue. This must be a result of the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • Current parenting arrangements involve supervised contact where the allocated supervisor is unable to perform their role, and the parties cannot reach an alternative agreement;
  • The parties live in different States or Territories and the child cannot travel between residences due to current border restrictions;
  • Either the parties or the child have tested positive to Covid-19 and cannot fulfil their parental obligations.

Make an Application to the Family Law Court in Australia

If you believe your situation meets the criteria above and you require urgent action, seek legal advice first before starting your application to the family law court in Australia. Our team can help you with your application as well as provide legal representation if your application is successful. Please get in touch to see how Emerson Family Law can help you through these unprecedented times.