In the face of a global pandemic, it is no surprise that things change. While the full impact of the outbreak is uncertain, we are adapting to minimise the impacts on our clients. This week, we begin with an overview of how we expect the coronavirus could impact family court matters.
In a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19 (the current disease caused by a novel coronavirus), the Australian Government has announced self-isolation policies and social distancing restrictions with hefty penalties for non-compliance.
The Prime Minister has announced that, from 16 March 2020, all people returning from international travel must self isolate for 14 days after the date of return to Australia. Also, further restrictions will apply to non-essential outdoor gatherings of 500 or more, and non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more. As the outbreak develops, the Government remains in discussions about scaling up these restrictions.
For up to date information on coronavirus/COVID-19 related restrictions and policies, please read information provided by the Department of Home Affairs.
So what does this mean for your family law proceedings?
If you’ve ever been to the Family Court, you’ll know that a courtroom is a busy place. What practical implications does this have on your attendance at Family Court hearings and the progress of your matter?
The Family Court of Western Australia Policy
In his national address on 18 March 2020, the Prime Minister named courts and tribunals as “essential” indoor gatherings, therefore granting them an exemption from the ban. In any event, social distancing and good hygiene practices should be applied in these settings.
Despite this exemption, the Family Court of Western Australia has its own attendance policies. As we learn more about the coronavirus, these policies will no doubt continue to evolve. Therefore please be sure to seek updated information where possible.
Ordinarily, clients would need to attend any parenting proceedings in person. To an extent this also applies to property proceedings too, where personal attendance is not always mandatory but still desirable. However, in light of the recent pandemic, the Family Court of WA is requesting that parties attend hearings by telephone (where possible.)
In relation to attending trial to give oral evidence and cross-examination, you should consider your personal circumstances. Mandatory self isolation policies take precedence. If any Government restrictions apply to you, please communicate this to the Family Court. They will be able to make alternative arrangements for you.
In any event, we recommend seeking legal advice to determine whether personal attendance can be proportionately justified in the circumstances.
If you are seriously unwell (due to coronavirus or otherwise) or an adjournment is necessary for some other reason, please seek legal advice as a matter of priority.p
Otherwise, the Family Court WA prefers that you e-file your court documents via the Commonwealth Courts portal, rather than in person at the Family Court registry.
If you are unable to e-file documents then you can post your court documents to the Family Court at:
Family Court of Western Australia
GPO Box 9991
PERTH WA 6848
Is this happening in Family Court’s across the country?
It is important to remember that the Family Court of Western Australia is distinct from the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. These courts on the East Coast of Australia have imposed other additional measures. These include:
- changes to Family Court list arrangements,
- capping of the number of people in each courtroom and
- trials by telephone/video link.
Be aware that these do not apply to Western Australia as of this writing. However, This may change as our understanding of the pandemic evolves over time. Hence we do urge all clients to pay attention to the guidelines of the Family Court of Western Australia.
For up to date information on their response to COVID-19, please read information provided directly by the Family Court of Western Australia.
Loukas Law Office Policy
The health and safety of our staff, clients and vulnerable loved ones is paramount.
Following discussions over the past few weeks and careful consideration of various Government and professional body announcements, we will be asking temporary screening questions prior to booking appointments with clients and at entrances to our physical offices.
Again, mandatory self isolation policies take precedence. Therefore, if any Government restrictions apply to you, you must communicate this to our offices so that we can make alternative arrangements for you.
We are fully equipped to continue providing our full services to our clients remotely, via email and telephone/video link.
Loukas Law will continue to support our clients throughout this time. We remain committed to delivering the best service, understanding, legal process and client experience possible.
Our lawyers understand and value the significant role we our clients entrust in us, no matter what is happening outside.
We honour that trust by developing a deep understanding of your situation, as a basis to provide the best advice. We understand that life goes on, and our whole team is committed to finding the best ways to do this.
Rest assured that we are monitoring announcements given by the authorities. We will continue to update our clients about any changes to our services.
If you are unsure about how the coronavirus impacts your family law matter, seek advice immediately. Please call us now on (08) 6381 0208 or fill out this form to schedule your first 30-min free telephone appointment.