Relationships and families are being significantly impacted during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, during March and April 2020, the Family Court saw a rise of 39% in urgent parenting applications, whilst the Federal Circuit Court saw a rise of 23%.[1]

Social distancing

To assist in the rise of urgent parenting applications that have arisen directly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court established a national list called the ‘COVID-19 List’. The COVID-19 List is designed to fast track applicants and allow the court to deal with matters in a swift manner. Eligible applications will receive a first court date within 3 days of filing.

To be eligible to file an application, your matter must meet the following criteria:

  • Your application must be a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Your matter is urgent;
  • If it has been safe to do so, you have made reasonable steps to resolve the issue but were unsuccessful; and
  • Your matter is capable of being dealt with via telephone or video conferencing.

It is safe to say that all families have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, what might be considered an urgent application? Here are some examples of what the court may accept if you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent:

  • Supervised contact: If your children had supervised contact with the other parent and the contact centre has closed as a result of COVID-19. Or, perhaps the nominated supervisor, such as a grandparent, can no longer supervise as a result of the risks of catching COVID-19.
  • Border restrictions: If the children can no longer travel between states to spend time with the other parent to border restrictions or closures.
  • Medical: if you or the other parent/family member have tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot spend time with the children due to health or concern of infection. This may include a reasonable risk that the children may be exposed to COVID-19 as a result of spending time with the other parent.
  • Family violence: if there has been an increase of family violence or risk of family violence due to the imposed COVID-19 restrictions.

To support your urgent application, a special affidavit is required to be filed which outlines why your matter is urgent, how the issue arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of harm (if any) to the children or either parent, the reasonable attempts made by each party and how the material can be served on the other party.

If your application does not meet the eligibility criteria, your application will be transferred to the nearest Court. You are likely to then receive a first court date in 4 to 6 weeks’ time.

If you require urgent action or advice from a family lawyer in relation to your parenting arrangements as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers to arrange a free 15 minute consultation.

[1] http://www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/about/news/mr260420