One of the concerns for families where there are current or resolved family law cases with regards to the changes forced on our community by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Family Court is trying to keep the community as updated as they can with press releases which you can access through their news page.
Independent Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are available to assist parents with:
- discussing changes to Court Orders when it is impossible to comply due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19 restrictions on travel and trade
- discussing how to maintain contact with children when physically spending time is not possible
- assisting to mediate to re-negotiate parenting agreements and document them as new parenting plans
- writing up agreements to prepare for Consent Order Applications.
Mediation Institute Members who are FDRP’s – https://www.mediationinstitute.edu.au/mi-members/
Recent Press Releases
26th March 2020 – Media Release from the Hon Will Alstergren – Parenting Orders and COVID-19
This is a partial summary of the press release – see the entire document here – http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/news/mr260320
- Act in the best interests of your children. That means ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Caring for and determining the practical day to day best interests of a child is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers.
- Consistent with 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 spent arrangements.
- Due to COVID-19 there may be cases where compliance with orders is difficult or impossible. Parents should communicate, if it is safe to do so, about sensible and reasonable solutions to these difficulties.
- 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.
- The FRAL is provided as a resource to assist with re-negotiating agreements and orders for the interim along with other alternatives.
- Consent orders can still be filed with the court
- Variations of Parenting orders can be sought if agreement can’t be reached
- Some form of contact should be maintained by video meeting, social media or phone if contact arrangements are forced to be varied
Family Dispute Resolution
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.
This requirement applies to anyone wanting to file an application with a family law court. It also includes those seeking changes to an existing parenting order. There are a few exceptions to this requirement, such as cases involving family violence, child abuse or urgency.
Unless an exemption applies, 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. The certificate is issued under Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 and is commonly known as a Section 60I Certificate.
You can visit Family Relationships Online for more information about the services and advice available for families, including seeking services from an FDR practitioner.
An FDR practitioner is an independent person who can help people discuss issues, look at options and work out how best to reach agreement in disputes about children. You can search for an accredited FDR practitioner who has consented to be on the Family Dispute Resolution Register website.
For general information about parenting orders, the following pages may be visited:
- Complying with orders about children;
- Parenting orders – obligations, consequences and who can help;
- How do I apply to the court when parenting orders have been breached or not complied with?
More information on these measures are available from the Courts’ websites:
More information about how to self-assess for your personal risk for coronavirus (COVID-19) is available from the website of the Commonwealth Government.
25th March 2020 – COVID-19 Update: Information for Parents
19th March 2020 – Notice to the Profession COVID-19 Measures and listing arrangement
Comprehensive list of changes and precautions
18th March 2020 – Notice to the Profession COVID-19
- Coming to court
- Current Listings
18th March 2020 – COVID-19 Update: Changes to the delivery of Registrar and Child Dispute Services
Family Court and Federal Circuit Court prioritising urgent and priority matters. Read the press release for more information.
18th March 2020 – Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia prioritise urgent and critical cases as the impact of COVID-19 escalates
- Non-urgent property only and parenting trials may be adjourned for an appropriate period of time.
- Move to trials and hearings by telephone if possible
- Live attendance staggered to reduce the risk of contact
- Regional courts adjourned or conducted by telephone
- See the press release for additional measures implemented
17th March 2020 – Urgent new arrangements for the listing of matters in the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (COVID-19) http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/news/covid19-170320