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Are Family Courts still operating during the Covid-19 pandemic?

family court and covid-19

Covid-19 – Family Law

Are Family Courts still operating during the Covid-19 pandemic? My matter is in Court soon – how will I know what is happening?

The first few weeks of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic were a scramble for the Courts and family law practitioners.  Initially there were limits on who could attend court and then who could be in the court room at any given time, more recently a transition to no attendances at Court whatsoever.  The arrangements changed almost daily as the Court and family lawyers grappled with the daily news cycle and directives. We have settled now into a new arrangement with all duty matters generally being managed by telephone.  There are also special arrangements for trials to be managed by video conferencing.

I have a matter in Court soon – when will I know what is happening?

In the 1 to 2 weeks before your Court appearance the Court will contact your lawyer, or you directly if you do not have a lawyer and the Court has your details.  If you do not have a lawyer and you are concerned that the Court may not have your best contact details then you should contact the National Enquiry Centre to check – you can do this by phone, email or chat here – http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/contact-us/national-enquiry-centre/fl-nec

If your details have changed you should lodge a Notice of Address for Service via the Commonwealth Courts Portal to update the Court and the other parties with your current details.

If you have a lawyer the email from the Court will go to them and they should be in touch with you to let you know the details.

There are two ways that the Court is managing the telephone appearances and ultimately it will depend on the Judge.  You will either be allocated a specific time to call into a teleconference on the day, or you will simply wait for the Court to call when they have reached your matter in the list.  Hopefully most Judges will adopt the teleconference arrangements as time moves on.

What will happen on the day?

On the day of your court appearance you and your lawyer will call into the conference at the allocated time.  You are asked to keep your telephone speaker on mute as the court may be dealing with other matters when you call in, or your matter may not be first on the list.  Everyone will stay quiet with their phones on mute until their matter is called.

The Judge will then manage the matter in the usual way by asking for the lawyers or parties (where there are no lawyers) to announce their appearances and working through what is to happen on that day.

A further benefit is that there are cost savings for clients along with time savings, where you are not waiting around at Court from 9.30am for your matter to be dealt with.  You know that at some point around your allocated call time your matter will be heard.

It will be important for you and your lawyer to know what is to happen and make sure all issues have been dealt with before the appearance as there will be no opportunity for your lawyer to talk to you and check any instructions or details during the appearance.  The only way this is possible is if you are with your lawyer in their office for the purpose of the call.  With many lawyers working remotely, this may not be possible.

When should I call my lawyer?

If you have a Court date coming up soon check in with your lawyer to make sure you know what is happening and how the matter will be managed.  It is a good opportunity to have your matter organised in advance rather than leaving discussions to happen at Court – that won’t be possible in these circumstances.  Your lawyer and the other lawyer (or parties) will need to be on the front foot and work out the plan beforehand.

If you are not sure about how your family law matter is impacted by Covid-19 or have questions about your family court matter, contact us for advice.

At this time lawyers remain an essential service pursuant to the Queensland Health directives.  This means that it is okay for you to attend at our office when required. When you attend at our office for these engagements we practice the required social distancing and ensure that our office is cleaned after each engagement.  We also space out any appointments we have to limit contact with others.

These in person appointments are limited. Our preferred approach however is to meet with you via Zoom or other video conferencing to talk with you about your family law matter.  We have reduced fees available to assist you with obtaining relevant advice for your matter.

If you would like some further information about how we can assist you in how the Covid-19 pandemic may impact your matter, please contact us at 3343 9522 or mail@lifelaw.com.au for an appointment.

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