The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts) have each established a court list dedicated to dealing exclusively with urgent family law disputes that have arisen as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The list commenced on Wednesday 29 April 2020.

The operation of the COVID-19 Lists is set out in Joint Practice Direction 3 of 2020.

NOTE: do not eFile your application if seeking to be heard in the COVID-19 List. All documents must be emailed to COVID19List@federalcircuitcourt.gov.au for filing.

Can I file in the COVID-19 List?

To be eligible for the COVID-19 List, you must satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • The application has been filed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The matter is urgent;
  • The application is accompanied by an Affidavit (using the COVID-19 template affidavit) that addresses all of the criteria;
  • If safe to do so, you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the issue but you were unsuccessful;
  • The matter can be dealt with using electronic means (e.g.: using telephone or videoconferencing).

Examples:

  • Supervised contact: your current parenting arrangements involve supervised contact, and the contact centre is closed or the supervisor cannot perform their role and you cannot agree on an alternative.
  • Border restrictions: you live in a different state to the other party and your child or children cannot travel between residences due to border restrictions.
  • Medical: you, the other party and/or the child have tested positive for COVID-19 and you cannot fulfil the parenting obligations due to sickness or concerns of infection.
  • Family violence: there has been an increase in risk due to family violence as a result of the restrictions imposed on families due to COVID-19.

How do I file in the COVID-19 List?

  1. Prepare the following documents:
    1. the application;
    2. a supporting affidavit of no more than 6 pages using the COVID-19 template affidavit;
    3. a cover letter advising that the matter is urgent (see Annexure to JPD3 of 2020); and
    4. a Notice of Risk (if applicable).
  2. In your affidavit, address the following criteria:
    1. why the matter is urgent;
    2. how the dispute has arisen as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
    3. details of any current allegations of risk to children or parties, such as a risk of child abuse or family violence;
    4. details of the parties’ reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute through negotiation, or details of why it was not safe to attempt to resolve the dispute by negotiation; and
    5. details of how you propose to provide a copy of these court documents to the Respondent today, including information about the Respondent's current email address;
    6. If applicable, annexing (or attaching a photo or copy of) any current family violence order, e.g. an intervention order or domestic violence order.
  3. In accordance with Joint Practice Direction 2 of 2020, you may sign the Application and Affidavit electronically. The Affidavit may be filed without a qualifying witness signing the document.
  4. File your application by emailing the above documents to COVID19List@federalcircuitcourt.gov.au. Unless it is not safe to do so, you must copy the other parties into the email when emailing the documents to the Court to put them on notice of the proceedings.

Fees

A filing fee is payable when filing an Initiating Application or an Application in a Case (see the Family Law (Fees) Regulation 2012).

When filing in the COVID-19 List, also send either:

It is noted that Joint Practice Direction 2 of 2020 in relation to deferral of fee payments also applies to the COVID-19 list.

For further information see: Guidelines for family law fee exemption, reduction, deferral and refund

How does the COVID-19 List work?

After submitting your application, the Court will assess whether you meet the criteria for the COVID-19 List. If the matter is suitable for the COVID-19 List, you will receive a first return date within three business days of your application being assessed by the Court or less if your application is assessed as critically urgent.

If your application is not assessed as meeting the criteria for the COVID-19 List, you will be notified and your matter will be emailed to your nearest Court registry for processing and the allocation of a date. The first return date may be 4 to 6 weeks from filing.

Depending on the issues in your case, the application may be dealt with via:

  • A virtual court hearing before a Judge;
  • A virtual court hearing before a Registrar;
  • If appropriate, electronic family dispute resolution, mediation or conciliation with a Registrar (or in certain circumstances, also with a Family Consultant).

The Court will notify you as soon as possible as to how your application will be listed, and make orders or directions for any further action you need to take.

Parties are reminded that the Courts’ Statement of Core Principles applies to the case management of all family law applications filed in the COVID-19 List. Parties are expected to act in accordance with these principles.

If you have any queries, please contact the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000, or Michael Raine Legal Assistant (Paralegal), phone: (08) 8219 1641 or email: michael.raine@familycourt.gov.au