Electronic hearings

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) conducts hearings in-person (at its own registry locations and on regional circuits), and electronically via video link and telephone.

An electronic hearing is a proper and formal court hearing. The only difference is that it is conducted via electronic means rather than in-person with all parties in a courtroom. The usual Rules of Court, court procedures, courtesies and formalities still apply and are expected to be complied with. See Etiquette and tips for more information.

Your hearing may be conducted electronically because you have made a request (using the Request form), or the Court has directed that the hearing will be held via video link or telephone.

You can usually work out how and where a hearing will occur by:

  • Checking court orders – if a hearing was listed when a judge or registrar made orders, the relevant order might state the method or location of the hearing.
  • Checking emails or letters about your matter from the Court – typically, if your hearing is going to be electronic, the Court will send you (or your lawyer, if you have one) an email with instructions on how to join the hearing and what documents are to be provided to the Court before the hearing date.
  • For divorce hearings only - checking the Court and Events and Orders' section of the Commonwealth Courts Portal or checking the court list from 4PM Eastern Time the day prior to the hearing.

If you have not received the details for your matter by seven days before it is listed, you can contact the Court.

Hearings by video link

The Court conducts some electronic hearings via telephone using Microsoft Teams and Webex.

You do not need to buy software to participate in a video link hearing 

You do not need a paid subscription to participate in a video link hearing. 

If your matter is listed for a hearing via Microsoft Teams or Webex, you should familiarise yourself with the following:

  • the Practitioner and Litigant Guide to Electronic Hearings, which sets out technical requirements and procedure, and 
  • the instructions sent to you (or your lawyer) by the Court for your particular hearing, which will include the link to the ‘meeting’ for your hearing. 

Hearings by telephone link

The Court conducts some electronic hearings via telephone using Microsoft Teams and Webex.

Do not place the call on hold

When you are connected to a court teleconference, never place the call on hold (this includes taking another call while connected). Placing the teleconference on hold results in loud music being played, which will disrupt the hearing to the point of the hearing not being able to continue until it is taken off hold. 

However, you should place your phone on mute whenever you are not speaking.

You should follow any instructions sent to you (or your lawyer) by the Court for your particular hearing.

Online etiquette

The same etiquette applies for your court hearing whether it is conducted electronically or in person. See Etiquette and tips for more details.

  • Your behaviour, manner and presentation should be the same as if you are attending the Court hearing in-person. This includes addressing the Judge correctly as ’Your Honour’ and addressing Counsel politely and courteously.
  • You should be in a quiet and secure space, free of interruptions or distractions for the duration of the electronic hearing.
  • You should join the electronic hearing at least 15 minutes prior, or at an earlier time specified by the Court, to ensure that there is sufficient time to resolve any technical issues.
  • You are to keep your microphone muted until you are required to address the Court.
  • You are not permitted to use any recording or transmission devices to record, edit or distribute any audio and/or visual footage of the electronic hearing.
  • You should ensure that any mobile phones or other devices not in use for the electronic hearing are switched off or in a location which would not cause any disturbance to the electronic hearing.
  • You should be dressed in attire suitable for a Court appearance, as you would if you were attending the Court hearing in-person.
  • You are not permitted to eat or drink for the duration of the electronic hearing, with the exception of a glass of water.

Do not record the hearing

All participants are prohibited from recording (by any means) any court hearing or other court event.

See section 15.23 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 for family law proceedings, and Division 6.2 of the Federal Court Rules 2011 for general federal law and migration proceedings.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) prohibits the publication or dissemination of an account of any part of any proceedings that identifies a party, a witness, or any person associated with the proceedings.

Where required, virtual hearings are recorded by the Court’s recording and transcription services provider, VIQ Solutions, or or by the Court, in accordance. Participation in a virtual hearing indicates a participant’s consent to being recorded.

Transcript will be available through VIQ Solutions in accordance with the usual ordering processes. Some delays may be experienced during this time of transition to virtual hearings. Please note that recordings undertaken by the Court are not available to the parties. For further information, see Court recording and transcription services.

Special needs

When you (or your lawyer if you have one) receive your notice of hearing, it is important to consider whether there are any special needs that may make it difficult for you to participate in the remote hearing. This may apply in the following circumstances:

  • You do not have access to the internet
  • You do not have access to suitable electronic devices (computer, smartphone etc.)
  • You require the support of an interpreter.

If you have any special needs that you need to discuss with the Court, you should contact the Court as soon as you are aware.