Navigating Your Family Law Matters During COVID-19
Effectively managing your family law matters can be challenging during the best of times, let alone during this time of great uncertainty. Even during this anxious and unsettling time, there are actions you can take to successfully manage your family law matters to ensure you and your family are protected. Below, we set out some considerations which we suggest you turn your mind to at this time and invite you to contact our family lawyers if you have any queries or require assistance during this difficult time. Our firm remains completely operational during this time and are ready to assist new and existing client’s with premium service, despite the challenging environment.
1. Making an application to the court
The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have recently issued directions advising the courts may not list or hear non-urgent matters. Where possible, the court is directing parties to electronic (video or telephone) hearings to limit the number of people personally attending court. At this time, the courts continue to operate (in a more limited capacity), however, there is uncertainty surrounding the period for which this may be sustained. For this reason, in the event you are considering commencing proceedings or are awaiting a directional court event, there may be merit in considering alternative dispute resolution processes such as negotiation, mediation or arbitration. In circumstances where litigious matters have been postponed, numerous family law barristers (who are also qualified mediators and arbitrators) are available to assist parties with these processes, in a timely manner.
2. Family violence within the home
Given the significant restraints of movement being placed upon families by the Federal Government, many people may find themselves in a vulnerable position within the home. This may arise as a result of parties feeling unsettled and anxious or merely by being required to stay within the home unless attending to essential activities. If you find yourself in this position and fear leaving the home because you have no alternate accommodation or means for enforcing restraints upon your partner, there is help available. Organisations such as DVCOnnect, Womensline or Mensline can put you in contact with support services and safe houses. White Ribbon also provides a list of useful resources on their website: White Ribbon – Domestic Violence Resources.
Specialist domestic violence courts continue to operate and you are able to make an application for a protection order during this time. If you require assistance in making an application for a protection order, we are able to assist. If you are in immediate danger, please call the Police on 000.
3. Parenting arrangements
Whether, as parents, you have orders or an informal arrangement in place, we are facing unprecedented circumstances which were not likely contemplated when negotiating the children’s time with each parent. Even during these times, parents should continue to act in the best interests of their children and comply with any orders or parenting arrangements currently in place. If you are able, we suggest you approach the other parent and have a sensible and reasonable discussion about the arrangements which will be implemented if we are required to enter a period of complete lockdown, if school is cancelled/moved to an online platform or where alternate carers (such as grandparents) are not able to care for the children. In circumstances where restaurants and cafes have been closed, it may also be the appropriate time to make alternate changeover arrangements. Given the likely continued operation of supermarkets and fuel stations, these locations may be suitable alternatives to restaurants or cafes. If you are involved in interstate parenting arrangements, please note, you may be exempt from state border closures, noting this will change depending upon which state you reside in and require to travel to. Any variations to current parenting arrangements should always be documented in writing, including, text message, email or similar means of communication. The Family and Federal Circuit Court of Australia also provide informative resources such as the following link: Parenting orders – obligations, consequences and who can help
4. Property settlement matters
Due to the sporadic nature of the current economic climate, this may not be the most stable time to reach property settlement agreements given the value of property interests will continue to fluctuate. However, given the additional time parties will have at home, the current environment presents a great opportunity for collating all of the information required to commence negotiating a property settlement. If you have an agreement reached or orders in place with respect to property matters and this is no longer practical, we suggest you obtain legal advice with respect to your alternative options.
5. Child support
In circumstances where the Australian Government anticipates up to 2 million Australians will become unemployed during the coming months, it may be the case that a revised child support assessment will be required. This can be undertaken by contacting the Child Support Agency directly and providing all relevant documentation required. In the event you have a binding child support agreement in place and the terms are no longer practical, we suggest you seek legal advice in navigating the alternative options available to you.
It is also important to stay up to date with all Federal and State Government announcements which can be found at the following pages:
Whilst we are experiencing a time of much uncertainty, there are meaningful things you can to do to safeguard yourself (and your children) when it comes to your family law matter. We can view the current time as an opportunity to explore alternative ways of resolving disputes and taking the time to prepare ourselves for any steps required to be taken once we are in more stable circumstances.
If you require confidential counselling or social support, Lifeline can be contacted on 13 11 14.
If you require any legal assistance with respect to family law matters, our Family Law Team is predominantly working remotely but continue to be completely committed to assisting all new and existing clients with any queries you may have. We remain contactable via telephone, video link or email and are using new technologies to ensure we stay in contact with clients to progress matters, despite the environment we are facing. If you would like to contact us now, you can reach us on 1300 749 709 or at our website.