Court process may never perhaps return to the way it was and it is important for lawyers and family law clients involved in the system to be aware of emerging trends.
The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (“the Courts”) are increasing face-to-face hearings in a staggered way over the coming months commencing Monday, 15 June 2020.
Priority will be given to urgent trials and hearings of applications that the judge considers cannot be dealt with via Microsoft Teams or over the telephone. A number of non-urgent hearings will otherwise continue to be dealt with via electronic means.
To assist in managing social-distancing requirements, the Courts will stagger listings to reduce the number of people waiting in the foyer/registry building. Visual aids have been introduced to remind court users of the requirement to maintain a 1.5 metre distance and to wash hands thoroughly and regularly. Additional cleaning measures have also been introduced to ensure the buildings are clean.
Practitioners and parties will not be able to go to other floors in the court registry, save for the entrance and the floor their courtroom is located on. Practitioners and parties are required to leave the courtroom immediately after their hearing has concluded, and then make their way promptly to the registry exit.
No more than 8 people (excluding the judge and associates) should be in the courtroom at any one time. Witnesses who are not parties will be required to leave the courtroom after giving evidence.
Court books for trials are to be provided electronically and a copy is to be provided for each witness and party prior to the hearing. No hard copy documents should be handed up in court.
All those attending the Courts for hearings are encouraged to download the Australian Government Department of Health COVIDSafe app. Alternatively, the Courts ask (but do not require) that the names and contact details of the attendees be provided to the associate for contact tracing purposes. These details will only be disclosed to health authorities if required by them.
The information contained in this post is general in nature. Parties should discuss the arrangements for their particular hearing with their legal representatives. The latest news from the Courts can also be accessed directly via www.familycourt.gov.au and www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au.
If you have any questions in relation to this post, please don’t hesitate to contact us.