The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court: dealing with family law disputes in 2020

02 Jul 2020

By Amanda Graham, Principal, MST Lawyers

The COVID-19 List

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Chief Judge of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia has established a court list dedicated to dealing exclusively with urgent family law disputes arising as a direct result of the pandemic.

An example of the matters being heard by the judges allocated to this list are where:

  1. parenting arrangements involve supervised contact and the contact centre is closed or the supervisor is not able to supervise contact due to COVID-19;
  2. there are border restrictions affecting a child or childrens travel between residences;
  3. a parent or child have tested positive to COVID-19 and parenting obligations cannot be fulfilled due to sickness or concerns of infection;
  4. there has been an increase in risk of family violence as a result of the restrictions imposed on families due to COVID-19.

Electronic proceedings

Both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court have, very rapidly, adapted to hearing matters on an electronic basis using Microsoft teams and AAPT telephone resources. Matters are conducted in the same way as in a courtroom however the judge conducting the matter has the luxury in the online environment of being able to mute parties and practitioners, a function they may miss when returning to in person court hearings.

The courts slowly began reopening their doors to in person hearings on  15 June 2020, albeit on a very limited and controlled basis. The decision to do so in the courts in Melbourne and Dandenong was reversed on 30 June 2020 following the increase in coronavirus cases in Melbourne suburbs and the suburb specific lockdown introduced by the Victorian Government on that day.

All Family Court and Federal Circuit Court family law hearings are now to be undertaken electronically until further notice.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this article or about family law more generally, please feel free to get in contract with Amanda Graham.