As the world grapples with the pressure and wide-spread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, in family law, we are now experiencing further delays in the pursuit of relief from the Court.

It is usually the case that the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia release a practice direction indicating a filing deadline for parenting matters that will be heard before Christmas. Usually this date falls sometime in late-November.

Now, as we look in the face the COVID-19 and the extreme burden this has caused on the Court’s resources, it has never been so important to get organised and start planning the Christmas arrangements for your family.

In family law parenting matters, there are three ways to resolve a dispute, namely:

  1. A parenting plan: this is an informal agreement you reach with your former spouse which sets out your parenting arrangements moving forward;
  2. Consent Orders: these are documents that are prepared by your lawyer and filed with the Court. They are administratively reviewed by a Registrar of the Court and usually take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to be returned to you from the date of filing. Due to the delays caused by COVID-19, we are now seeing delays with documents not being returned for up to 8 weeks; and
  3. By order of a Judge: this is when you are involved in parenting proceedings before either of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or Family Court of Australia.

It is usually the case that parties to a dispute who are able to reach an agreement prefer to formalise their agreement by way of Consent Orders. In doing so, with a view to settling your Christmas arrangements, we recommend you start this process now so that your family has certainty moving through the holiday period.

If you are currently in proceedings or you and your former spouse are unable to agree what the parenting arrangements should be and you need the Court’s assistance, we highly recommend you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your matter will be listed before a Judge before Christmas. The family law team at Chamberlains can be contacted at familylaw@chamberlains.com.au