Forte Family Lawyers
The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictions imposed by Federal, State and Territory governments have meant changes to the usual procedures of the Family Law Courts. These changes are intended to be temporary and are not located in the Rules of either court. The changed procedures cover witnessing of affidavits, filing of court documents, listing arrangements of all types of hearings, courtroom procedures, child dispute services and viewing subpoenas. The courts have also issued guidance notes to parents about parenting orders and border restrictions.
The Family Law Courts issued “Joint Practice Direction 2 of 2020 – Special Measures in Response to COVID-19” on 31 March 2020. This replaced earlier COVID-19 Practice Directions issued by the two courts and ensures that the procedures in the courts are largely the same. To the extent practicable, the Joint Practice Direction applies to proceedings whether filed before or after 31 March 2020 and will remain in effect until and unless superseded or revoked. In addition, legal practitioners and parties need to follow the 25 March 2020 “Statement from the Hon Will Alstergren – Parenting Orders and COVID-19”, and various news items, Notices to the Profession and protocols on the websites of the Family Law Courts. This update is current as at 9 am on 14 April 2020, but it is expected that there will be further changes due to the evolving impact of the pandemic.
- Witnessing of affidavits and other documents
The Australian social distancing requirements imposed by the Federal Government include that people should stay at home, only go out if it is absolutely essential and keep 1.5 metres away from others. Breaching the guidelines is an offence under State and Territory laws, although each State and Territory has interpreted and applied the Federal Government’s requirements differently. The witnessing of affidavits by legal practitioners appears to involve actions which breach the law and make the legal practitioner and client liable to a penalty. Even if the execution of an affidavit is considered to be “essential’ many legal practitioners and their clients would prefer not to expose themselves to potentially catching the virus.
The process for witnessing affidavits is a matter of State and Territory law. The Law Institute of Victoria issued on 25 March 2020 “COVID-19 Guidance on witnessing documents electronically” which explains why documents cannot be witnessed through video-conferencing or other means which are not in person. This applies to many documents including affidavits, financial statements, financial agreements and parenting plans. When witnessing a signature on a document, the witness:
“(a) certifies that they were present at the time the document was signed;
(b) certifies that the document attested was signed by the witness;
(c) certifies that the document was signed voluntarily, so that it was the signatory’s own act; and
(d) represents that they attested at the time they witnessed the signature by the signatory.”
The objective of the above is directed at providing independent verification in the event that a party seeks to deny their signature. The witness cannot fulfil their duty if any part of the process is conducted in such a way that the witness can later deny any of the matters in (a) to (c) above. The duty in (d) protects the integrity of the certification process.
Technology may be able to address some of these requirements, but not all, particularly ensuring that the same document is signed by both the signatory and the witness and being certain that the witness signed voluntarily as there could be somebody near the signatory who is placing the signatory under duress.
To address the problem of how affidavits can be witnessed during the pandemic, the Joint Practice Direction sensibly provides that:
- Documents, including affidavits, financial statements and consent orders, required to be signed under the Family Law Rules 2004 or the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 may be signed electronically by the deponent and/or the lawyer on the record for that party, including by having the person signing the document type their name in the relevant space in the signature block in lieu of physically signing the document.
- The courts will accept affidavits (other than where part of a divorce application) and financial statements for filing even if the deponent’s signature has not been properly witnessed. If the judicial officer requires it, the deponent needs to be available by telephone, videoconference or in person, at a court event, to swear or affirm that the contents of the document are true and correct to the best of their knowledge, information and belief.
New South Wales is the first State or Territory to start addressing the problem. The COVID Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act (NSW) 2020 commenced on 25 March 2002. Section 17(1) gives special regulation-making power:
“The regulations under any relevant Act may provide for the following matters for the purposes of responding to the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic –
- altered arrangements for the signature of documents provided for by an Act or another law,
- altered arrangements for witnessing signatures, including requirements for certification of certain matters by witnesses and verification of identity, provided for by an Act or another law,
- altered arrangements for the attestation of documents.”
Any regulation made under this section will expire 6 months after the day on which the regulation commences or an earlier day decided by resolution of either House of the Parliament of New South Wales.
Similar legislative changes are likely to be proposed in other States and Territories but no legislative changes have yet occurred. Unless and until the necessary legislative and/or regulatory changes are made in the State or Territory in which the affidavit is sworn, an affidavit cannot be sworn electronically.
2. Filing of court documents
Since 24 March 2020, the registry services of the Family Law Courts have been provided remotely, by telephone and through other online services. Members of the public and legal practitioners who have an enquiry can contact the Family Law Courts on: 1300 352 000.
To facilitate matters being dealt with electronically, legal practitioners and lawyers must eFile or eLodge all documents. If documents are unable to be eFiled or eLodged, then they should be emailed to the registry for electronic filing. Court users without access to the necessary electronic equipment, including self-represented litigants, can contact the Registry by telephone for assistance. Hard copies of documents are not to be posted or delivered to the registry.
For affidavits filed in the Family Court of Australia, unless total annexures exceed more than two centimetres in width, the annexures should be attached to the affidavit when it is electronically filed or emailed to the registry. This temporarily over-rides r 15.08(2) of the Family Law Rules 2004. The reference to 2 cm is not very helpful because most lawyers are working electronically and may not print out all of the annexures, and paper thickness varies. As a rough guide, 2 cm is about 200 sheets of paper. If the annexures to an affidavit exceed two centimetres thick, application can be made to the registry case co-ordinator who may liaise with the duty registrar or docket judge. If the application is granted, the affidavit should be emailed to the court or, if email or other electronic means is not possible, USB stick containing those documents can be delivered to the registry with the permission of the court.
For interim proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court, the pre COVID-19 procedure continues to apply. Practice Direction No 2 of 2017 provides that unless express leave is granted by the Judge into whose docket the matter has been allocated, any affidavit in support of an interim application must not exceed 10 pages in length or contain more than 5 annexures.
Registry staff may be unable to process fee payments where they are working from home and are unable to access an EFTPOS terminal, so a fee payment for a scanned form or document that has been emailed to the court may be “deferred”. Where registry staff are able to come into the physical court premises they will continue to process payments for forms that have been scanned and emailed to the court. The process for online payments, including when eFiling, remains unchanged
3. Listing arrangements
The situation with listing arrangements has changed with the developing advice from the Commonwealth Government Department of Health and as further restrictions are imposed by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments on social distancing. On 18 March 2020 in a Notice to the Profession, the Family Law Courts announced:
“1. Due to the nature of family law work, including child related and family violence aspects, urgent and priority trials and contested hearings will remain listed and will be conducted in the safest manner possible.
2. Non-urgent property only trials may be adjourned, as well as non-urgent parenting trials at the discretion of the Judge.
3. If trials or hearings can appropriately be done by telephone, they will be done that way.
4. High volume lists that are required to be conducted in person will be staggered to reduce the number of people in attendance.
5. The number of people to attend a courtroom at any one time (other than the judge and their support staff) will be limited to 8 people (‘8 person in-court cap’). Additional people involved in matters must remain outside the courtroom.
6. The balance of the Sydney Federal Circuit Court callovers were vacated and adjourned to a date to be fixed. Callovers in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane, Parramatta and Adelaide were postponed until further notice.”
On 19 March 2020 and 9 April 2020 further Notices to the Profession set out more detailed guidance. The main way in which work will be conducted in the courts in the near future will be by telephone and, where possible, by videoconferencing. The courts are using Microsoft Teams for video-conferencing, but it is not necessary for the legal practitioners and their clients to have downloaded this software as the courts provide a link. Only a small number of exceptional matters will be dealt with by in-court face-to-face hearings, which will be conducted pursuant to the face-to-face in-court protocol which is outlined below.
Now that Microsoft Teams has been rolled out across the courts, the court is trying to recommence the callovers of the Summer Campaign.
First Return Duty Lists, Abridgments, Mentions, Directions, and Interim Hearings
Appearances for these hearings will generally be by telephone using the following procedure:
- Parties will be advised by the court that the matter will be heard by telephone;
- A party may approach the court seeking that (a) the matter not proceed by telephone hearing because it is not practicable to do so or (b) the matter is urgent and requires a face-to-face hearing in court.
- Requests for face-to-face hearings should be made to the chambers of the presiding Judge or the case-coordinator as appropriate by email. These requests should give a brief outline as to why the matter is urgent and should remain listed for a face-to-face hearing. If the Court directs the parties to proceed by face-to-face hearing, the face-to-face in-court protocol applies;
- If it is not practicable for the matter to proceed by telephone, and the matter is not urgent, the Judge may administratively adjourn the matter to a date to be advised and, if appropriate, send it to an ADR event;
- If the matter proceeds by telephone, parties will be requested by the court to provide their direct telephone contact details to the court by no later than 4:00pm two business days prior to the listing.
- Parties will be given an estimated time for their hearing to commence and must ensure they are available by telephone until they receive the court’s call.
- For Duty Lists, the courts require practitioners to consider:
“7.1. Are there serious risk factors in this matter?
7.2 What are the major issues in dispute in the case?
7.3 If related to parenting, are the parties able to agree on an interim arrangement?
7.4 Would the parties benefit from a conference with a Registrar, and if parenting, including a Family Consultant?
7.5 Can disclosure be limited to particular topics?
7.6 Can it be heard on a preliminary point which might then lead to the whole proceeding being settled?
7.7 Is the case appropriate to be sent to mediation or another form of ADR?
7.8 If the matter is a property case, should it be sent to arbitration?
7.9 What other orders could the court make by consent to progress the matter?”
If any of the above are relevant, practitioners should raise these issues with the Duty Judge and seek orders, preferably by consent.
8. If parties agree as to the future conduct of the matter, proposed interim consent minutes may be submitted by email to the court for consideration.
9. Matters in a duty list where no Notice of Address for Service or Response has been filed will remain listed to be dealt with face-to-face in court, but with the Applicant to appear by telephone. The name of the Respondent will be called outside the courtroom in the usual way.
The Courts have rolled out Microsoft Teams and now have greater capacity for electronic hearings, and the courts will attempt to conduct as many hearings as possible. The courts will rely on the profession to assist by cooperating with the use of technology, adapt to new practice directions and be progressive. Any matter that is currently listed will proceed electronically where possible. Where a case has to be vacated or requires a face-to-face hearing (especially if it is not urgent and requires a face-to-face hearing of more than 1.5 hours), it will be placed in a national pool and be listed as soon as the operations of the courts allow.
For matters that either have a trial date or are seeking one, practitioners can approach the courts to seek orders that may help to facilitate an electronic hearing. They could include:
• written opening and closing submissions
• the provision of objections to evidence and a ruling before the hearing
• narrowing of issues
• a statement of agreed facts
• limiting time for cross examination
• the provision of an electronic court book and tender bundle, or
• a suggested trial timetable.
Practitioners should consider carefully whether there is any reason why trials of particular matters cannot properly be heard via Microsoft Teams. If there is a dispute about whether a trial should proceed via video, the docketed Judge will determine that dispute. Practitioners have been warned that they should not assume that resistance to a video trial will automatically be successful.
For final hearings, the following procedure will generally be followed:
- The presiding Judge will conduct a telephone callover of all matters listed in their docket for a defended hearing in the next 2 months.
- During the telephone callover, parties should inform the Judge of the urgency and status of the case, whether it may be susceptible to hearing by video or telephone either partly or fully, and whether it should be given priority over other cases listed for trial in that period.
- Cases that are assessed to be of a lower priority may be sent to an ADR event, either to a private mediation or a conference with a Registrar and/or Family Consultant, and the matter will otherwise be adjourned for trial on a date to be advised.
- Practitioners are encouraged to consider how they can effectively facilitate ADR within the parameters of appropriate social distancing, including using videoconferencing or shuttle mediations.
- Cases that are assessed to be of a high priority, and remain listed for hearing, should follow the face-to-face in-court protocol, including giving consideration to conducting parts of the hearing by telephone or written submissions after the 1.5 hour time period has elapsed.
- Subject to any further developments or Government restrictions, this process may then be repeated for matters listed for final hearing in 3 and 4 months’ time.
Appellate family law proceedings
The following arrangements apply to the Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia at least until the end of May 2020:
- Appeals in Sydney will be conducted for no longer than 1.5 hours face to face in court with a judge or judges appearing by video or telephone where necessary.
- Appeals in Adelaide will be conducted with the presiding judge in the courtroom for no more than 1.5 hours face-to-face in court and the other two judges otherwise appearing by video (or telephone if necessary).
- Appeals in Melbourne will be conducted in a courtroom with all three judges appearing by video (or telephone if necessary).
- It may not be possible to list all appeals that are currently or will shortly be ready for hearing, and priority will be given to matters that are deemed urgent. Only one appeal will be listed each day.
- Counsel (and their instructing solicitors where necessary), solicitor advocates, and self-represented litigants are expected to attend the court where the appeal is being heard, but requests can be made to attend by telephone depending on the circumstances and the nature of the appeal.
- It is not necessary for parties who are legally represented to attend in person at the hearing, and through their legal representatives they can request to listen in by telephone.
- All documents to be provided to the bench must be sent electronically to the Appeal Registrar no later than 24 hours prior to the commencement of the hearing. A chambers order to that effect will be made by each Appeal Registrar in all appeals where a directions hearing has already been held. This order will be a standard order made at each future directions hearing.
- All directions hearings before Appeal Registrars will be conducted by telephone.
- Single judge appeals and Applications in an Appeal will be conducted as directed by the judicial officer hearing them however, any hearing will not exceed 1.5 hours face-to-face in court and may be continued by telephone or by written submissions.
- For all Applications in an Appeal, all parties will be asked whether the application can be determined on the papers.
Parties will be provided with a listing time and operational instructions for the telephone hearing by the court. Only the Judge and Chambers staff will be in the courtroom. Interpreters will also appear by telephone if possible. If a telephone hearing is not practicable, and the matter is not urgent, then it may be adjourned to a date to be advised. If a telephone hearing is not practicable and the matter is urgent, it will remain listed for a face-to-face hearing at the discretion of the Judge.
Reserved judgments will be delivered in an empty courtroom, and reasons for judgment emailed to the parties in the usual way, noting that no appearance is required.
Any urgent matter which requires a face-to-face hearing must adhere to the face-to-face in-court protocol which is explained below.
Hearings on the papers
Judges are encouraged to consider any matter on the papers where possible in accordance with the usual Rules of Court.
4. Face-to-face in court protocol
The Face-to-face in court protocol is designed to reduce the risk of infection for Judges, staff and court users when conducting face-to-face court hearings. The major features are changes to listing and courtroom procedures.
There will be far fewer hearings which involve the parties and their legal practitioners being in a courtroom. These are now called face-to-face hearings. Priority for face-to-face hearings will be given to urgent matters that the Judge considers cannot be dealt with over the telephone.
Listings will be staggered to reduce the number of people waiting in the building. Short matters for mention or directions hearings will be listed at 30 minute intervals. Longer contested matters will not be listed for more than 1.5 hours, and with sufficient time in between listings to allow cleaning to occur.
The length of face-to-face hearings will be reduced, where possible, with written submissions and telephone hearings.
Courtrooms and courtroom procedure
Courtroom procedure has changed to adhere to social distancing restrictions. The following procedures apply:
- No party is to enter the courtroom before their matter is called.
- No more than 8 people (excluding the Judge and Associate) may be in the courtroom at any one time. This restriction was calculated by Chief Justice Will Alstergren who, according to the Australian Financial Review (“Why eight is enough for federal courts”, Michael Pelly, 19 March 2020) took seven people with him to one of the Melbourne courtrooms, directed people where to sit and took out a tape-measure to do the measuring
- Counsel, solicitors and parties are to adhere to social distancing by sitting in designated seats as indicated in the diagram on the door of the courtroom and in the seats marked in each courtroom (i.e. at least 1.5 to 2 metres apart).
- Appearances will not be required until the hearing commences, and they should be provided from the Bar table orally, not advised to the Associate. Parties cannot approach the Associates’ desk.
- Hearings will be conducted for not more than 1.5 hours in the same matter.
- Hard copy documents cannot be handed up, so they will need to be provided to the other party and to the court by email.
- Parties must leave the courtroom immediately after their hearing has concluded, and go promptly to the Registry exit.
Cleaning and Security
Additional cleaning of courtrooms that are used for face-to-face hearings will occur as often as practicable between hearings and when the court is adjourned during the day.
Security will ensure social distancing is observed whilst court attendees are queuing for security.
Contactless thermometers may be used to allow for non-invasive temperature measurements prior to parties and legal practitioners entering the Registry buildings.
Court attendees displaying symptoms
In the event that any court attendees become ill or display any symptoms of COVID-19, they should immediately notify the court and leave the Registry. The court will be adjourned and appropriate steps taken, including any deep cleaning required.
5. Parenting orders
The purpose of the Statement from the Hon Will Alstergren – Parenting Orders and COVID-19 published on 26 March 2020 is to clarify that the Family Law Courts remain open to assist parties, and to provide parents with some general guidance, but with the understanding that every family’s circumstances are different. The Statement reminds parties that “the law requires separating families who have a dispute about children to make a genuine effort to try to sort it out through family dispute resolution (FDR) before filing an application for parenting orders in court.” Unless one of the few exceptions to this requirement applies, such as cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency, parties seeking to have a parenting matter determined by a family law court will need to electronically file a certificate from an accredited FDR practitioner issued under s 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA). In addition, the radio interview by Chief Justice Will Alstergren with radio station Triple M on 27 March 2020 is on the Family Law Courts’ websites in which His Honour summarises actions taken to ensure the courts remain open and gives sensible advice to parents about parenting arrangements.
The following points are made in the Statement with respect to parenting matters:
“1. It is imperative that parents and carers act in the best interests of their children. This includes ensuring their children’s safety and wellbeing. Whilst the courts make orders that are determined to be in the best interests of a child, caring for and determining the practical day-to-day best interests of a child is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers.
2. Consistent with their responsibilities to act in the children’s best interests, parents and carers are expected to comply with court orders in relation to parenting arrangements. This includes facilitating time being spent by the children with each parent or carer pursuant to parenting orders.
3. In the highly unusual circumstances now faced by Australian parents and carers, there may be situations that arise that make strict compliance with current court orders very difficult, if not, impossible. This may be caused, for instance, where orders stipulate that contact with a parent occurs at a designated contact centre, which may not currently be operating. Or, the “pick up” arrangements of a child may nominate a particular school, and that school is now closed. Many state borders are also closed. In addition, there may be genuine safety issues that have arisen whereby one parent, or someone in close contact with that parent, has been exposed to COVID-19, and this may restrict the safe movement of a child from one house to another.
4. As a first step, and only if it is safe to do so, parties should communicate with each other about their ability to comply with current orders and they should attempt to find a practical solution to these difficulties. These should be considered sensibly and reasonably. Each parent should always consider the safety and best interests of the child, but also appreciate the concerns of the other parent when attempting to reach new or revised arrangements. This includes understanding that family members are important to children and the risk of infection to vulnerable members of the child’s family and household should also be considered.
5. If an agreement can be reached about new parenting arrangements, even if they are to be adjusted for a short period of time, this agreement should ideally be in writing, even if by way of email, text message or WhatsApp between each other. This will be particularly important if there are later family law hearings and will assist all concerned, including the court, to understand what agreement may have been reached.
6. If you feel that you need further guidance, the Family Relationships Advice Line can provide information, advice and telephone-based Family Dispute Resolution services to assist parents and carers to discuss any issues that arise and help them come to an agreement. The Family Relationships Advice Line can be contacted on 1800 050 321 or visit the website.
7. Parents and carers can also mediate their differences through lawyers. Electronic mediation services are available from the courts and through local Bar Associations and Law Societies during these restricted times. Visit their websites for more information.
8. If an agreement has been reached and consent orders have been developed to outline new or varied parenting orders, consent order applications can be filed electronically with the court. This process is quick and usually conducted without a hearing.
9. If the parties are unable to agree to vary the arrangement, or if it is unsafe to do so, and one or both parents continue to have real concerns, the parties are at liberty to approach the court electronically and seek a variation of the orders.
10. Where there is no agreement, parents should keep the children safe until the dispute can be resolved. Also during this period of dispute, parents should ensure that each parent or carer continues to have some contact with the children consistent with the parenting arrangements such as by videoconferencing, social media or, if that is not possible, by telephone.
11. At all times, parents or carers must act reasonably. To act reasonably, or to have a reasonable excuse for not complying with court orders, is a matter that is considered by the court (pursuant to s 70NAE FLA).
12. It is imperative that, even if the orders cannot be strictly adhered to and are varied by the parties, the parties ensure that the purpose or spirit of the orders are respected when considering altering arrangements, and that they act in the best interest of the children.
13. The courts appreciate that agreement by mutual consent may not be reached, particularly if one party has concern for their physical safety. Therefore, the courts advise that if you or your child is in immediate danger, please contact your local police and seek medical advice if required.”
6. Border restrictions and shared parenting orders
On 8 April 2020 the Family Law Courts issued a statement about the restrictions imposed by some Australian States and Territories on residents who are travelling across State and Territory borders in response to the Government’s protocols for non-essential travel. Some of the restrictions also involve strict quarantine requirements.
These border restrictions may affect families with court orders for shared-parenting arrangements that require children to move from one household to another across State borders. Border arrangements are primarily a matter for each State or Territory government, and there is currently no national approach to how parents should deal with this situation. Families should seek advice from the relevant State and Territory authorities about how the border restrictions and quarantine requirements may impact them and their circumstances. For example, there may be exemptions that enable families with court orders in place to travel across State or Territory borders. Links to each State and Territory website have been provided in the “COVID-19: Border restrictions and shared parenting orders” page on the websites of each of the courts.
When crossing State or Territory borders, parties may be required to provide the appropriate court order, as evidence of essential movement, to border control personnel, so they should ensure that they carry current photo identification. Ideally, they should also have a hardcopy of the appropriate court order, or at least an electronic copy or photo of the court orders.
7. Child dispute services
Child Inclusive Conferences under s 11F of the FLA will only be ordered where the Judge considers there is an urgent requirement for a family consultant to see the children. This will primarily relate to urgent matters in duty lists. Otherwise Child Dispute Conferences will be ordered. Child Dispute Conferences involve only the parties with the Family Consultant and not the children.
All Child Dispute Conferences will be conducted by telephone. Parties will be sent dial-in details with AAPT numbers or, alternatively, will be asked to provide their contact details. There will be no requirement to attend court in-person.
Family report interviews scheduled will proceed as arranged, unless the parties are advised otherwise by Child Dispute Services (CDS), but will be conducted consistent with social distancing principles as far as possible.
The “Child dispute services – interview protocol” is designed to reduce the risk of being in close contact with a court user who may be infectious with COVID-19. A close contact is typically someone who has been face-to-face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, with a person that was infectious (World Health Organisation definition). The protocol is to be used in addition to the usual COVID-19 hygiene practices of regular washing of hands and not touching one’s face.
Wherever possible, face-to-face interviews should not take place and should instead be conducted electronically in accordance with the CDS Guidelines for Conducting Assessments.
Interviews will be arranged to minimise the number of people coming into the court at any one time. Face-to-face interviews with children and parent/child observations must be limited to a maximum of 1.5 hours with the same individual(s). Observations will occur in a separate room to that used for the interviews with children. Interviews with, and observations of, the children will be from one family per day.
As interviews will adhere to the ‘4 square metres’ rule, CDS may need to make special arrangements to use larger rooms where possible.
During interviews or observations, taking into account the age of the child, Family Consultants are, to the extent possible, to keep an appropriate distance (i.e. at least 1.5 to 2 metres apart) from parents and children.
Additional cleaning of interview rooms is being arranged and hand sanitiser is being sourced.
8. Viewing subpoenas
Subpoena viewing at all registries of the courts is by appointment only. Requests for an appointment should be made by emailing the relevant registry.
Access to subpoenaed material that has ‘photocopy access’ may be provided at the discretion of the registry. Registry staff will email approved documents. Photocopy access will not be made to documents including a child welfare record, criminal record, medical record or police record, in accordance with r 15.30(2) of the Family Law Rules 2004 and r 15A.13(2) of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001.
Legal practitioners and parties should only make appointments to view subpoenaed material if the matter is critically urgent.
9. Mediations and Arbitrations
Now, more than ever alternative dispute resolutionis being encouraged by the courts. In the 9 April 2020 Notice to the Profession, parties and their lawyers are reminded that there is software which allows electronic medications such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Immediation. Registrars are also being trained to conduct conferences by Microsoft Teams and Immediation.
The courts also expect that arbitration will become more popular and, to assist with this, a specialist national list Judge will be appointed in each Court to hear and manage applications and directions for cases that have been referred to arbitration.
There has been a flurry of Notices, Protocols and other material issued by the Family Law Courts. The social distancing requirements imposed by governments and the general impact of COVID-19 have meant that the Family Law Courts have had to change their procedures temporarily to ensure that they can still operate, albeit at a slower speed, and giving priority to urgent matters. More changes are expected as the courts address issues arising from the ongoing pandemic.
14 April 2020