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Joint Practice Direction 3: The COVID-19 List

The Federal Circuit Court and Family Court have recently announced the introduction of the COVID-19 Lists. The lists commenced on 29 April 2020 and aim to deal with urgent applications for matters that have been directly caused by COVID-19.

Criteria for the COVID-19 Lists

An application must satisfy the following criteria to be considered for the List:

  1. the application has been filed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. the matter is urgent; 
  3. the application is accompanied by an Affidavit (using the COVID-19 relevant template affidavit for each Court) that addresses certain criteria;
  4. evidence shows that if safe to do so, that reasonable attempts have been made to resolve the issue, but were unsuccessful; and
  5. the matter is capable of being dealt with by electronic means.

Operation of the List

The list will be managed and overseen by the Chief Justice/Judge but will be administered by National COVID-19 List Registrars. Registrars will use the arrangements put in place by the Chief Justice to triage applications and consider whether a matter is suitable for an urgent electronic mediation or conciliation. If a matter involves significant risk to the parties or children, it will be referred directly to a Judge.

Applications that meet the criteria will be given a first return date before a National Registrar or Judge within 3 business days. If an application does not meet the requirements it will be referred to the relevant docket judge or for a hearing in due course. As the list is national, matters will be heard by Judges from any Registry. It must be remembered that Judges or Registrars will only be dealing with the COVID-19 application or orders that are affected by the COVID pandemic. The remainder of the matter will be dealt with in due course.

Examples of Suitable Applications

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. 

Border restrictions: the parties live in different States or Territories and the child cannot travel between the parties’ residences due to border restrictions. 

Medical: The parties and/or child have tested positive for COVID-19 and 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 resulting from the restrictions imposed on families during the COVID-19 pandemic

This list is not exhaustive, and matters will be at the discretion of the registrar.

Filing an application in the Covid-19 List

All applications can be submitted via email with the appropriate supporting documents. The applications can be signed electronically, and affidavits can be filed without a qualifying witness signing the documents. It is important that the documents explain why the matter is urgent, how the dispute has arisen as a direct result of Covid-19 and any allegations of risk or abuse. Parties will also need to provide details about attempts to resolve disputes or the reasons why it was unsafe to attempt negotiation.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require more specific information on filing or if believe your matter may satisfy the criteria and you need further assistance.

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