• 9 Nov 2022

Going to Court in a post COVID-19 World - Family Law

On Monday 7 November 2022, the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) issued the Special Measures Information Notice Hearing Protocol (SMIN). This replaced the Special Measures Information Notice COVID-19 Hearing Protocol, which was revoked on Friday 4 November 2022.

The SMIN outlines how the FCFCOA will conduct their hearings and events in a 'post COVID-19' manner.

What does this mean for you?

CovidSafe Measures

  • Electronic Court attendance will ordinarily be required for most Court events.
  • If you test positive to COVID-19 and you have a Court event, you must notify your solicitor, the presiding judicial officer or the Court as soon as possible. If you have a solicitor, they can notify the Court on your behalf. You should not attend the Court if you have tested positive to COVID-19.
  • You are still required socially distance and keep at least a 1.5 metre distance from others.
  • Face masks are strongly recommended, but optional for court users.

Hearings and Court Events

  • Final hearings will be conducted in-person unless otherwise directed by the Court.
  • If however a final hearing is listed before a non-local Judge, the final hearing will be conducted electronically unless otherwise authorised by the Chief Justice/Chief Judge.
  • Interim hearings will also be conducted in-person unless otherwise directed.
  • Short Court events (such as first return, duty lists, mentions, directions, judgment delivery, and divorce hearings) will be conducted electronically, unless otherwise directed.
  • Compliance and Readiness Hearings will be listed in-person.

Dispute Resolution Events

  • Conciliation Conferences and Dispute Resolution Conferences will proceed electronically unless it is considered by the presiding Registrar to be more appropriate to conduct in-person.
  • Similarly, most external mediations, such as Legal Aid FDR Conferences and Litigation Intervention Conferences will proceed electronically.

Court Children's Service Events

  • The type of report and nature of assessment will determine the manner in which interviews and observations will occur. Generally, assessments of children will occur in-person. The Court Children's Service and/or report writer will communicate with the parties whether assessments will occur in person or electronically.

Where your matter is listed for an in-person hearing, you may be able to seek to appear electronically. The request is made by filing a Request to Attend by Electronic Communication under Rule 15.16 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021. You must make the request at least twenty-eight (28) days before a final hearing and five (5) business days before any other Court event. It will then be at the discretion of the individual Judge to consider the circumstances of the case and decide the best way to conduct the hearing.

Contact the Family Law team at Acorn Lawyers today to discuss how the new protocol affects you and your matter.