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Family Law Courts to Resume face-to-face hearings

Family Law Courts to resume face-to-face hearings as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Since March 2020, the Family Law Courts have conducted over 80% of their work via electronic hearings due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. As Australia now begins to “re-open”, The Honourable Chief Justice Alstergren has advised that the Family Law Courts will begin to gradually resume face-to-face hearings.

From 15 June 2020 each major Registry will open four courtrooms to conduct face-to-face hearings. Given the health concerns and social distancing requirements, a full utilization of courtrooms may still be a number of months away as further restrictions continue to be eased.

Family Law Courts

Under this protocol, court attendance will follow the following guidelines:

  • Hearing times will be staggered;
  • There will be strict social distancing requirements implemented in all common areas and courtrooms;
  • In courtrooms, no written appearances are to be provided to associates. Appearances are to be orally announced at the start of the hearing;
  • No hardcopy documents are to be passed up during the hearing; an electronic court book is to be used where possible;
  • No more than eight people plus court staff and a judicial officer are allowed in the courtroom at any one time without leave of the judge;
  • Witnesses who are not parties will be required to leave the courtroom after giving evidence;
  • All present are encouraged to download and activate the COVID-19 app. Those who choose not to will be requested (not required) to provide their names and contact details for contact-tracing requirements only if the courts are required to provide that information to the health authorities if an outbreak occurs; and
  • Practitioners and parties will not be able to go to other floors in the Court Registry, except for the entrance and the floor their courtroom is located on and should exit the Registry building promptly after the conclusion of their hearing.

As stated above, there will be strict social distancing and capacity requirements in place that will have to be met in relation to not only the space within courtrooms but also people queuing at security and waiting to use an elevator. An updated Court Face-To-Face Protocol is available via this link to the Family Court website.

Contact Us

Watts McCray Lawyers continue to be able to advise our existing clients and any new clients experiencing family law issues by telephone and arrangements can also be put in place for video conferencing as appropriate. Please visit our Contact page for further assistance. Alternatively, you can read about the changes we have implemented here: Watts McCray addresses the challenges of COVID-19.