The Courts have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that matters continue to be heard remotely if needed. Judges, lawyers and court staff have all been adaptive and flexible to ensure that the system can continue to function in this time.
Border closures and travel restrictions have created significant difficulties for many families and the Court.
Parents are required to comply with their current parenting Orders and are encouraged to discuss where possible any issues that may arise due to the unique circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic and focus on what is in the children’s best interests to resolve these issues together in a sensible calm way where possible.
Sometimes this is not always possible and urgent issues arise. In those circumstances, you should seek legal advice.
There is a fast tracked dedicated COVID list which now operates in each Court and your matter may be heard by a Judge or Registrar from any Registry in Australia. This list is intended for those matters which are a direct result of, or if indirect, has a significant connection to, the COVID-19 pandemic and are urgent.
Matters which may be accepted into this list have any of the following features:
Family violence: There has been an escalation or increase in risk due to family violence associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples include (but are not limited to) a breach of a family violence order, a party being charged with a family violence related offences or recent child welfare agency involvement with the family related to family violence concerns.
Suspension of parenting orders due to a family violence order: where either parenting orders or a parenting plan have been suspended by an ex parte family violence order made during the COVID-19 pandemic and a party seeks that the Court make further parenting orders.
Vaccinations: at the relevant time, there is a dispute about a child being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Medical: The parties cannot fulfil the parenting obligations due to a party and/or child testing positive for COVID-19 or medical complications from having contracted COVID-19, or due to concerns about infection or quarantine requirements.
Travel arrangements or border restrictions: the parties live in different States or Territories and there are difficulties or anticipated difficulties with the child travelling between the parties’ residences, including due to any Government restrictions, or a party is planning international travel.
Supervised contact: the current parenting arrangements involve supervised contact, and the contact centre is closed or the supervisor is unable to perform their role, and the parties cannot agree on an alternative arrangement.
Urgent or priority financial and maintenance issues: a party is experiencing financial distress related to the impact of COVID-19 and requires urgent court orders, for example, an application for occupation or sale of a property.
Failure to resume time in accordance with parenting orders or a parenting plan: where parties agreed to suspend parenting orders or a parenting plan due to COVID-19 restrictions, but there has been a failure or refusal to resume compliance with those parenting orders or that parenting plan following the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions.
COVID-19 related employment: a party is a front line health worker or engaged in other employment connected with COVID-19 that is impacting parenting arrangements or compliance with orders.
If you need advice about whether your dispute may be suitable for this priority list, contact us on 02 4324 7699 and make an appointment with our family lawyer Michelle Meares for an initial consultation.