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COVID-19: Important update on family courts

By March 31, 2020February 23rd, 2024No Comments

The Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia have issued important new information regarding how the courts are managing the COVID-19 crisis by modifying practices. The aim is to protect the health and safety of the community, judges, legal practitioners and court staff while continuing to administer justice.

Please make sure to visit the Family Court’s dedicated page for all COVID-19 related information here as there is a lot of detail that may be relevant to you. We summarise the key changes below:

  • For matters listed for duty lists/mentions/directions and interim hearings you will be contacted by the Court with a view to the hearing proceeding by telephone. At that time, parties will be required to establish a reason why any hearing by phone is either impracticable or that the matter is urgent and requires a face to face hearing (such requests to be made to the case co-ordinator by e-mail).
  • There will be a telephone call-over for all matters listed for trial within the next 2 months, where the urgency and status of the case will be reviewed, with any matters not considered of high priority to be referred for mediation/ADR.
  • Judges are encouraged to consider asking for cases to be determined ‘on the papers’.
  • For telephone hearings, any document that has not been e-filed that is sought to be relied upon, must be e-mailed to the judge’s chambers or case co-ordinator in a timely way, before the hearing.

Face-to-face protocol during COVID-19

There is now a ‘face to face hearing’ protocol, where no more than 8 people (excluding the judge and associate) are to be physically in the courtroom; it should not be expected that documents can be handed up during the hearing; and there is now a formal seating map for each party and their representative.

Changes to how documents are filed

There are also a number of important changes in relation to filing documents.

The Federal Circuit Court has outlined the following key changes:

  • All documents are to be e-filed on the Commonwealth Courts Portal with no hard copies being posted or delivered to the registry in person for filing. There are limited exceptions (such as when a party is unrepresented and unable to email documents).
  • If documents can’t be e-filed (for example, if they exceed the limit of 100 pages), then they should be emailed to the relevant registry (you can find the registry email address on the court’s website) for filing.  
  • Subpoenas may only be viewed by appointment. Requests for appointments must be emailed to the relevant registry.
  • Appointments can only be made in urgent cases or where a hearing is scheduled within four weeks of the appointment.

The Family Court has issued a similar advice, with the addition of the following in relation to annexures to affidavits:

  • Documents referred to in affidavits should be attached to the affidavit when it is e-filed or emailed to the relevant registry. The ‘tender bundle’ procedure is no longer accepted.
  • If the total annexures exceed more than two centimetres in width, applications to file the documents need to be made to the registry case coordinator who may liaise with the duty registrar or docket judge depending on the case. If the application is allowed, parties will need to email those documents (or if email or other electronic lodgement is not possible, then provide the documents on a USB stick to the registry).

Family Court of Western Australia and COVID-19

There have also been two updates released by the Chief Judge of the Family Court of WA, which you can read here and here.

If you need any family law advice, please do not hesitate to give our office a call. Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.


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