11 May What to do if your Family Law matter is affected by Coronavirus
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court (FCC) have established a COVID-19 List which deals with urgent family law matters directly resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list commenced on 29 April 2020 and sees urgent COVID-19 applications fast-tracked through each Court.
Which Family Court and FCC matters are eligible?
To be eligible for the COVID-19 list, your family court or FCC matter must satisfy all of the criteria below:
- The application has been filed as a direct result of COVID-19
- The matter is urgent
- The application is accompanied by an affidavit (which uses the COVID-19 template affidavit, found here for the Family Court and here for the Federal Circuit Court) that addresses all of the criteria
- If safe to do so, you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute
- the matter may be dealt with using electronic means such as by telephone or videoconferencing
For example, matters that would eligible for the COVID-19 List include matters where:
- Supervised contact is no longer possible (due to the contact centre closure or the supervisor not being able to perform their role)
- As a result of border restrictions your children cannot travel between residences
- Contact is not possible for medical reasons including positive testing for COVID-19 by one of the parties and/or children
- There has been an increase in risk due to family violence as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions
How to file in the COVID-19 List
To file your Family Court or FCC matter in the COVID-19 List, you must prepare the following documents:
- Supporting affidavit of no more than 6 pages using the COVID-19 template affidavit
- A cover letter advising that the matter is urgent
- If relevant, a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (Family Court) or a Notice of Risk (FCC)
Your affidavit must address certain criteria, including:
- Why the matter is urgent
- How the dispute is a direct result of COVID-19
- Allegations of risk (if any)
- How the parties reasonably attempted to resolve the dispute
You must also address how you intend to provide copies of the court documents to the other party.
You may file your application by emailing the above documents to the Family Court at COVID19List@familycourt.gov.au or the Federal Circuit Court at COVID19List@federalcircuitcourt.gov.au. You must copy the other party or parties into the email when corresponding with the Court. Please note that a filing fee is payable.
How the COVID-19 List operates
Once your application is filed, the Court will determine whether you meet the criteria for the COVID-19 List.
If your application meets the criteria, your matter will receive a first return date within three business days of your application being determined by the Court.
If your application does not meet the criteria, you will be notified and your matter will be forwarded to your nearest Court registry for processing. Your matter will receive a first return date within four to six weeks from filing.
Your application may be dealt with via a virtual court hearing before a Judge or Registrar, or if appropriate through family dispute resolution, mediation or conciliation conference.
How can we help
We are aware that this is a difficult time for many Victorians. If you are concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on your family law matter, or you require assistance with an application to the COVID-19 List, please contact us.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from marshalls+dent+wilmoth and other relevant experts.