Young family putting on masks as a COVID safety measure

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

On 15 March 2020, the Minister for Emergency Services declared a state of emergency in respect of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 pursuant to section 56 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA).

On 23 March 2020, the Minister for Health declared a public health state of emergency in respect of COVID-19 pursuant to section 167 of the Public Health Act 2016 (WA).

Since a state of emergency has applied in WA there have been a variety of directions put into place by the government to prevent, control or abate the serious public health risk presented by COVID-19.

This is resulted in significant queries arising among Family Law clients. We have aimed to address some of these frequently asked questions here.

Will my Family Law matter still progress?

Most family law matters are able to progress as they usually would due to the fact that the Court and most law firms are continuing to operate as normal, subject to appropriate social distancing guidelines and government regulations.

Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky is open for business and our employees are fully accessible via email and telephone. We remain available to assist our clients and can arrange meetings via phone or digital meeting technology. If necessary, our offices can also be made available at the current time for critical face to face meetings.

Is the Family Court of Western Australia Still Open?

The Family Court of Western Australia remains open and continues to perform its duties.

While the Court is open, it is encouraged that only the necessary legal practitioners, parties, and support people attend Court. Further, anyone who has flu-like symptoms or has travelled overseas in the last 14 days must not enter the Court premises.

The front counter services at the Court have been temporarily suspended, however registry services are still offered. Documents can be lodged remotely via the Court Portal, post, email, or alternatively in person at the Court’s secure drop box.

All listed hearings and conferences will continue if practicable and will be conducted by telephone.

As there are a number of practical issues in running a Trial via telephone or video-link and in light of other COVID restrictions the a number of  listed Trials are being vacated. The Court does have capacity to conduct some trials electronically where suitable. Relevant factors to consider include the number of parties and witnesses, the location of the parties and witnesses, the ability of parties and witnesses to attend personally or by way of video or telephone, anticipated evidence, urgency of the matters to be determined at Trial, and whether the Trial will remain procedurally fair and adequate to enable a proper determination of the matters in issue.

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