The Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic has forced adaptation and innovation in the Family Law Courts and in the workplace, and the sector has continued operate during Covid-19 lockdowns. Accordingly, O’Sullivan Legal continues to service both new and existing clients, and has ensured the implementation of Covid-safe policies and technologies to ensure both the ongoing safety of their clientele, and the ongoing quality of their legal work.

As noted by the Family Law Court and the Federal Circuit Court in their media release of 28 June 2021, whilst there are no face-to-face services being provided by Registries within the lockdown jurisdictions between 28 June 2021 and 12 July 2021, the Courts are still open to support litigants and professionals through a range of online and phone services. Materials held by the Court can be accessed electronically under new urgent procedures, and Court appearances and alternate dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and arbitration are going ahead by way of video meeting platforms, or other technologies.

Similarly, O’Sullivan Legal remains open to clients by way of video meeting or teleconference platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or by way of phone and email communication. Our employees are skilled in operating relevant technologies to mitigate the impacts of the lockdown, and continue to provide a high level of legal service to our clients.

Additionally, reflecting upon the advice of Jacky Campbell as linked below, our employees are informed on navigating family law practice during the pandemic. Video meetings with clients are prioritised to ensure the greatest levels of mutual understanding, and our practitioners are alert to the increased risks of family violence throughout the pandemic, particularly whilst stay-at-home orders are in place. Furthermore, our practitioners are aware that the Covid-19 lockdown is accompanied by unusual pressures and anxieties, and are prepared to engage with clients and other parties with patience and understanding.

Alternate Dispute Resolution

The removal of face-to-face services at the Courts and the delays associated with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic mean that the settling of cases through alternate dispute resolution becomes a sensible reality. Mechanisms such as negotiation, family dispute resolution, mediation, and arbitration remain operative to help you reach a resolution.

Parenting Matters

Changed conditions may call for flexibility, where orders allow it. Increases in child support may be necessary where a parent has a reduced or lost income, and can be negotiated with the assistance of your relevant Child Support Authority (Services Australia- Child Support (NSW). Variations may be needed in changeover times and changeover locations, or in relation to approved caregivers or activities where restrictions prevent compliance with parenting orders.

It is important to note that you can be held in contravention of court orders if there is a breach without a reasonable excuse, and so co-operative communication and agreement between parents regarding such alternate arrangements is important and greatly encouraged to avoid any contravention applications. Any agreed changes should be documented either formally or informally. If orders do not allow re-negotiation of such terms between the parties, then legal advice should be sought. It is likely that consent orders will be processed remotely by a registrar to document any change to the orders and prevent any breach or contravention.

Property Matters

Flexibility is also demanded in this sector. Existing court orders and financial agreements may not seem fair or viable in light of changes to the economy, or changes to the personal circumstances of parties. While it may be possible to attain legal advice on whether such arrangements can be reviewed, it must be noted that just because an agreement has become unjust or difficult does not make it impracticable.

To prevent further injustice, other procedures in this sphere may be best adapted or delayed. For example, superannuation splits usually expressed in dollar terms may be better dealt with in percentages due to the volatility of the share markets. Business valuations may be better delayed to avoid the adverse effects of current reduced demand and staff absences from disproportionately impacting their value.

 15 Tips or Advising Family Law Clients in a Covid-19 Pandemic: