KEY TAKE OUTS
- The COVID-19 Family Court Priority List, introduced in April last year, is to expand its criteria and continue into 2021.
- The List aimed to address specific matters arising as a result of the pandemic, such as increased family violence and medical issues.
- Matters that meet a certain criterion will be heard within 3 business days if urgent, and 7 business days if the matter is of priority, but not urgent.
The COVID-19 Family Court Priority List, first introduced in April 2020, has been extended and expanded to include other issues, such as the vaccination of children, in response to the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
There have been around 430 applications since its introduction in April last year, with most of these being accepted. As a result of the pandemic, the Family & Federal Circuit Court system experienced an increase in applications to the Court to assist families resolve a number of issues, including an increased risk and occurrence of family violence; requests for parenting orders to be varied as state borders were closed and travel was restricted; failure of one parent to return the children to the other parent; and escalation of financial matters as a result of lost income.
The expansion particularly comes in response to an overwhelming increase in incidents over the holiday period, as stated by Chief Justice of the Family Court, Will Alstergren. The holiday period is a time of “additional emotional and financial stress” for families, but the extension has provided a safety net for this issue.
In addition to helping individual families, the extension has “helped settle cases that would otherwise not have been settled”, thereby easing the backlog of the courts.
For a matter to be eligible, it must satisfy a list of criteria:
- The application must be filed as a direct result of, or have significant connection to, the pandemic.
- The matter must be urgent.
- It must include the application as well as an affidavit, which addresses the criteria.
- Those applying must have made reasonable attempts to resolve the issue where it is safe to do so.
- The matter must be able to be dealt with online.
Once approved the matter is dealt with in one of three ways:
- Virtual hearing before a Judge.
- Virtual hearing before a Registrar.
- Electronic dispute resolution, mediation & conciliation with a Registrar.
If all the above criteria are met and the matter is deemed to be urgent, the matter will be heard within 3 business days.
If all the above criteria are met and the matter is deemed to be a priority, but not urgent, the matter will be heard within 7 business days.
ABOUT LARA MENON:
Earlier in 2019, Lara was selected by the NSW Law Society to undertake an internship with the NSW Coroner’s Court, working as a Judge’s Associate for the Deputy State Coroner.
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