Courts launch COVID-19 list to deal with urgent parenting disputes
Article By: Anastasia Bayliss, Lawyer Cappello Rowe Lawyers Sydney
The restrictions implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19 continue to impact co-parenting arrangements. In some instances, this has created increased risk in family violence. Additionally, the restrictions have caused practical difficulties for parenting arrangements that allow parents to see their children under supervision (where those contact centres are now closed) and in circumstances where parents reside in different States or Territories.
Over the past month, there has been a 39 per cent increase in urgent applications filed in the Family Court of Australia and a 23 percent increase in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (‘the Courts). Further, Women’s Legal Services have indicated that they have received an increase in the number of enquiries that relate to COVID-19 and parenting matters.
In order to address these issues, the Courts announced yesterday that they are establishing a dedicated list to deal exclusively with urgent parenting-related disputes that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions.
The list will commence on Wednesday 29 April 2020. The new COVID-19 list will operate for three months, subject to any further changes.
The effect of the COVID-19 list is:
- A dedicated Registrar will triage eligible applications to assess the needs of the case;
- Once the application is assessed, it will be allocated to be heard by a judge within 72 hours.
It is important to note that parties will still be required to attend Alternative Dispute Resolution prior to filing an application with the Courts, providing it is safe and appropriate to do so. Further, the Courts have also simplified the process to deal with cases electronically, meaning applications can be filed online/via email and hearings can be conducted via Microsoft Teams.
Examples of applications that may be suitable for filing in the COVID-19 list, include:
- Family violence: As a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, there has been an increase in risk due to family violence.
- Supervised contact: The present parenting arrangement provides for supervised contact, and the contact centre is closed or the supervisor is not able to perform, and the parties are unable to agree on an alternative arrangement.
- Border restrictions: The parties reside in different States or Territories and the child is unable to travel between residences due to the restrictions.
- Medical: The child and/or the parties have tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot fulfil their parenting obligations.
See the attached statement from the Courts which provides further information on these urgent COVID-19 applications.
Where the circumstances allow, it is best to try and negotiate practical alternate arrangements that put the best interests of the child first, prior to going to court. If you are experiencing difficulties negotiating alternate arrangements or have any queries regarding these issues, please feel free to contact our family law team on 8325 1520 or alternatively email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.