We understand that family law clients continue to require critical assistance in dealing with their family law cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of social distancing, working from home, early school holidays and Court closures can be overwhelming and stressful.

As an essential service, we continue to have the following processes in place to assist you:

  1. Remote, video conferencing via Zoom;
  2. Audio and Phone conferences;
  3. Full access to our data base and systems;
  4. Contact via WhatsApp and text messages; and
  5. Continued email access.

The following guide addresses how COVID-19 will impact your matter.

Court Orders and your family law matter

Court orders must be followed and may only be varied by agreement between parties.

In the event that orders are not practicable due to COVID-19, parties should communicate with one another to settle any issues, and in situations where this is not possible (for example, due to an Intervention Order), you should communicate through your solicitors.

Parenting Matters

It is important that parties act in the best interests of the child/ren and facilitate time with each parent according to parenting orders where it is sensible and reasonable to do so. You shouldn’t treat COVID-19 as an opportunity to breach court orders and seek to increase time with your child/ren.

If contact with one parent is not possible, parties should take all measures necessary so that that parent continues to have contact with the child/ren such as by telephone, videoconferencing or social media.

We recommend you to work with your former partner during this time. If parties are able to reach an agreement with regard to varied parenting arrangements, this agreement should be in writing. If communicating with your former partner becomes impossible, you should contact us about your family law matter as soon as possible on 1800 99 31 32.

School holidays and your family law matter

Victorian school holidays starting earlier does not affect the operation of existing parenting orders. Any reference to school holidays is a reference to the specific periods that were in place at the time the orders were made. Therefore, the duration of the Term One school holiday period is 25 March 2020 to 13 April 2020.

Changeover and COVID-19 Restrictions

Stage 3 restrictions are now in place and it is likely that this has affected changeover locations. In such cases, we recommend that parties communicate with one another in respect of their ability to comply with orders and attempt to find a practical solution.

If you and your partner are unable to come to a solution, please contact us on 1800 99 31 32 to assist with the situation.

Family Court and Federal Circuit Court

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have implemented new arrangements to attempt to navigate COVID-19.

The new arrangements are as follows:

Hearings

  1. All courtrooms will be limited to a maximum of 8 people (excluding the Judge or Registrar and court staff) and matters will be listed for no more than 1.5 hours.
  2. All direction hearings and mentions will be done by telephone.
  3. All discrete property lists, PPP500 lists and contravention lists will be conducted by telephone
  4. All interim hearings will be required to attend by telephone to the highest extent possible. If parties or lawyers request to appear in person, they must contact the Senior Registrar’s chambers by email and provide a brief outline as to why the matter is urgent and should remain listed for a face-to-face hearing.

Divorce Applications

  1. All sole divorce applications where there are children under the age of 18 will require attendance by telephone. If parties or lawyers must appear in person, rather than by telephone, then the face-to-face protocol will apply. The face-to-face protocol requires that all face-to-face encounters are conducted in accordance with social distancing.

Conciliation Conferences, Case Assessment and Alternative Dispute Resolution

  1. All Conciliation Conferences, Case Assessment Conferences and Alternative Dispute Resolution events will be conducted by telephone or video.

How can we help?

For all clients with a family law matter, a representative of Melbourne Lawyers & Mediators will be in contact with you via phone or email to advise of the new arrangements for your matter.

We will continue to provide updates on COVID-19 as the situation develops.

Please contact us on 1800 99 31 32 or email us at [email protected]  if you are concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on your family law matter or if you need legal advice.