Practical steps have been taken by the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in the face of Covid-19. A common question we are being asked by many clients is “How will COVID-19 affect my upcoming family law hearing?”
The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have been required to quickly adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Courts must adhere to restrictive requirements which are necessarily imposed by the Government Act. As a result, they cannot administer justice in the usual way, and have had to make significant changes. These changes have been implemented to balance the health and safety of the community, profession, Judges and staff, with the need to continue this essential service.
As of 23 March 2020, the Courts Registry Service announced that it would be providing remote service by telephone and through online services. This included the majority of Court Hearings taking place by telephone, and eventually it is anticipated, by video link.
The Court has issued Directions to the practitioners to streamline the Court process and to limit attendance at the Court itself. This includes greater use of e-filing via the Commonwealth Court Portal.
Watts McCray Lawyers have had several matters listed before the Courts during the first week of telephone listings. Practitioners are given designated dial in details and are able to make submissions to the presiding judge by telephone. It is possible for clients or parties who are unrepresented to also dial in to these hearings, at the invitation of the Court.
The Courts have indicated that they will conduct a telephone listing for those matters that have a Defended Hearing in the next two months. In the instance that the matter is high priority, it is likely to continue in accordance with the face-to-face in Court protocol being used by the Court, which includes limiting the amount of time in Court and possibly having some of the hearing conducted by telephone.
For matters that are a lower priority, you may find that the Court will direct to Mediation or another alternate dispute resolution event, with the Trial Date to be adjourned to another date to be advised.
The face to face Court protocol issued by the Court, and subject to regular review, provides that where matters cannot be dealt with by telephone:
We note the arrangements for the Court will continue to be reviewed in line with the parameters of advice from the Commonwealth Government Department of Health and Chief Medical Officer and the above information is correct as at the date of posting.