Family Court establishes system for dealing with urgent parenting issues

Family Law 11 May 2020

As we are all aware, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many changes to what we once considered normal.

Covid-19 has also impacted on parenting arrangements between separated parents particularly in relation to children moving between homes.  There is often confusion between separated parents about whether children can transition between homes given the restrictions that have been imposed by the State Government controlling our movements.

It is not surprising that there has been an increase in urgent Applications filed in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court over recent weeks as a result of the Covid- 19.

Due to the extra demand on our Court system, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia have established a dedicated Court List to deal exclusively with urgent parenting related matters and disputes which have arisen due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dedicated list established to deal exclusively with these matters is due to commence on 29 April 2020.

The dedicated Lists will quickly identify and deal with cases requiring urgent attention due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What matters are considered as urgent and how soon will they be heard?

Parenting matters which will be dealt with by what is now termed the Covid‑19 List will include matters which involve issues of risk and family violence.

There will be a dedicated Court Registrar who will triage the Applications filed in the courts and will assess the needs of each matter on a case by case basis.  Applications will be allocated to be heard by a Judge within 72 hours of being assessed.

This process is a fast track approach compared with the normal process of Applications through the Court.  The urgent matters will be heard electronically as quickly as possible.

A summary of Applications that might be suitable for filing in the Covid-19 List are matters involving:

1.            Family violence which is on the increase due to the restrictions imposed on families by the Covid-19 pandemic;

2.            Matters involving supervised contact where contact centres are closed or the nominated supervisor is unable to supervise time the children spend with one of the parents and the parties are unable to agree on alternative arrangements for the time the children spend with that parent;

3.            Restrictions imposed by closure of borders; and

4.            Medical issues where one of the parties or the children has tested positive for Covid-19 and cannot fulfil their parenting obligations.

It is anticipated that the Covid-19 List will run for approximately three months.

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