Guide for practitioners in the Evatt List

The Evatt List is a specialist list developed by the Courts where a highly qualified team of Senior Judicial Registrars, Judicial Registrars, Court Child Experts and court staff, in consultation with Judges, are allocated to manage eligible cases that are considered to be high risk, through more intensive case management and resources.

1. Introduction and purpose

1.1 This Guide summarises the arrangements for the Evatt List which is a specialist list established in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Division 2 (FCFCOA) to manage high risk matters.

1.2 The Evatt List has been created to ensure that families who are the most vulnerable are provided with appropriate resources, support and timely court events. It is a case management pathway that responds to the particular needs of the family as efficiently and effectively as possible to minimise the risk of further trauma and harm.

1.3 The Evatt List is a specialised case management pathway for matters where parenting orders, or parenting and financial orders are sought. It does not include:

  • matters involving only financial and/or property orders
  • child support only cases
  • child maintenance only cases, or
  • contravention applications.

1.4 In order to be referred to the Evatt List, at least one of the parties to the proceedings must:

  • complete the online Family DOORS Triage risk screening questionnaire
  • be identified as high risk during the triage and risk screening process, including a review by a Triage Counsellor, and
  • be assessed as appropriate for inclusion on the Evatt List by an Evatt Judicial Registrar in accordance with Family Law Practice Direction – Evatt List.

1.6 In accordance with the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management, matters placed on the Evatt List will be listed for a final hearing within 12 months from the date of filing, subject to parties complying with relevant orders and directions, and in consideration of the family safety risks.

1.7 The arrangements set out in this Guide are designed to streamline processes and promote a consistent and efficient Evatt List case management practice.

1.8 Nothing in this Guide affects the Courts’ discretion to conduct the list or case management of each particular matter in a manner it considers appropriate.

1.9 Amendments will be made to the Guide as appropriate. Lawyers should check the website for the current version of the Guide.

1.10 For further information on Lighthouse risk screening please refer to the FCFCOA’s website and the Information Sheet for Practitioners.

Legislative framework

1.11 Part IIA of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) prevents the disclosure, or admission into evidence, of information that is provided in connection with a family safety risk screening process carried out by the Court in relation to a party to proceedings under the Act. This part provides that:

  • a party cannot be asked to disclose whether or not they undertook risk screening
  • the risk screen answers, classification and referrals as a result of the screening process cannot be used as evidence in a proceeding, and
  • information shared or provided by a party to a Triage Counsellor (acting in the role of a family counsellor) in the course of conducting risk screening cannot be disclosed, or used as evidence.

1.12 The confidentiality and admissibility provisions (sections 10U and 10V Family Law Act 1975) are intended to ensure that a ‘family safety risk screening person’, including a court officer or Triage Counsellor (acting in the role of family counsellor), cannot be compelled to disclose risk screening information, including to state or territory agencies, or in the context of proceedings in state or territory courts or tribunals. These provisions ensure that parties are able to freely and confidently participate in the family safety risk screening process, without fear that the information they provide may be used against them in other contexts.

Exceptions to disclosure are contained in section 10U(6) Family Law Act 1975 .

2. The pathway for Evatt List matters

2.1 The Evatt List involves a dedicated specialist team, including highly skilled and trained Senior Judicial Registrars (SJR), Judicial Registrars and Court Child Experts who, in consultation with Judges have close oversight of the matters. The team approach is adaptable and flexible to the requirements of each particular matter. The Evatt Judicial Registrar plays the primary role of managing the matter from a procedural perspective and will liaise with the relevant Judge and SJR as needed. The Evatt Judicial Registrar will conduct regular chambers events to ensure compliance with orders/directions, obtain information from state and territory courts and agencies, and liaise with Court Children’s Service as and when required.

2.2 This Guide explains the various events in the Evatt List and gives an overview of the purpose of those events and who will conduct them.

2.3 A major initiative of the Evatt List is the early and proactive case management of the matter by the Evatt Judicial Registrar prior to its first listing date and Interim Hearing. This approach is designed to assist the Judge or SJR in making the most appropriate decision as soon as practical, based on the evidence gathered by the Evatt Judicial Registrar.

2.4 A broad summary of the events that take place in the Evatt List are:

Evatt determination event to Evatt First return event to Interim hearing to Dispute resolution (where appropriate) to Specialist case management mention to compliance and readiness hearing to Trial management hearing (if required) to final hearing

Step 1 Within 5–10 days of review by Triage Counsellor

Evatt Determination Event

Practitioners are reminded that in order for a matter to be eligible for placement on the Evatt List one or more of the parties must have completed Family DOORS Triage risk screening process as set out in Family Law Practice Direction – Parenting Proceeding. Practitioners are encouraged to speak with their client about risk screening. For more information about the Family DOORS Triage risk screen see, Lighthouse on the Court’s website.

Following receipt of a referral from the Triage Counsellor, the Evatt Judicial Registrar reviews the matter to determine if the matter will be placed on the Evatt List in accordance with Family Law Practice Direction – Evatt List.

If the matter is placed on the Evatt List the Evatt Judicial Registrar may make an order for a Child Impact Report (pursuant to section 62G) to be undertaken by Court Children’s Service and gather any other information the Court may require to make an informed decision, for example, documents from the police, other courts, or the child welfare authority. Orders may also be made for service and the filing of documents such as financial statements where relevant. The matter will then proceed to the Evatt First Return Event.

Step 2 Within 6–8 weeks after Evatt Determination Event

Evatt First Return Event

Parties will be required to appear at this court event, via Microsoft Teams, unless otherwise indicated.

The Evatt Judicial Registrar will address any procedural requirements, such as subpoena requests and additional reports, and identify, as appropriate, the case management of the parenting and the financial applications. This may include listing the matter for an Interim Hearing. The Evatt Judicial Registrar may conduct subsequent case management actions in chambers following to ensure the Interim Hearing proceeds on the listed date.

At all stages, noting the focus on safety and risk, the case management will ensure that any financial component of a matter does not delay, or prevent hearings or steps taken in the parenting proceedings, which may include bifurcation of proceedings.

An Evatt First Return date will only be adjourned in exceptional cases and parties are expected to be prepared and have complied with the previous orders.

If there are any safety concerns, and a safety plan has not already been put in place, please contact the Evatt Judicial Registrar’s chambers to identify options.

In some cases an Evatt Second Return Event will be necessary to ensure the matter is progressing as effectively as possible.

Step 3 Within 10–12 weeks after Evatt Determination Event

Interim Hearing

The Judge or SJR will address any urgent issues and decide what evidence and information should be gathered to allow proceedings to move toward finalisation. This may include identifying the need for expert reports, section 62G final reports, or progression and/or resolution of any financial or property matters. The Judge or SJR may consider referring the matter to Family Dispute Resolution, if it is safe to do so, or may decide the matter should be fast tracked to trial if the risk is significant and escalating.

At all stages, noting the focus on safety and risk, the case management will ensure that the financial component will not delay, or prevent hearings or steps taken in the parenting proceedings, and this may include bifurcation of proceedings.

Step 4 Within 8 months after Evatt Determination Event

Evatt Mention

The Evatt Judicial Registrar will check on the progression of any interim orders, outcomes of any dispute resolution or conciliation conferences and identify next case management steps and opportunities for settlement prior to trial.

If the matter does not resolve, the Evatt Judicial Registrar will review the matter to prepare for trial, including in relation to:

  • timing and need for a family report
  • single expert reports
  • application of section 102NA
  • valuations (if financial orders are sought), and
  • resolution/progression of any financial orders, noting that the matter cannot be listed for a Compliance and Readiness (CRH) until both the parenting and financial components are ready to proceed.

Final trial directions will be made at the CRH.

Step 5 Within 9–12 months after Evatt Determination Event

CRH and Trial Date Allocation

The matter will be listed for a CRH before a Judge and parties will be expected to comply with the requirements of the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management with respect to documents filed.

The matter will be listed for trial before a Judge who has been nominated to hear Evatt matters.

3. Evatt Determination – Chambers listings before the Evatt Judicial Registrar

3.1 Within 5–10 business days of a referral for a party screening as high risk in the Family DOORS Triage, a chambers listing will take place before an Evatt Judicial Registrar. No appearances are required at this event.

3.2 The purpose of the chambers listing before the Evatt Judicial Registrar is to consider:

  • whether the matter is suitable for the Evatt List
  • any section 60I exemption or short notice application
  • whether the matter should be referred to the Magellan Registrar (if there are allegations of sexual abuse, serious or escalating physical abuse against a subject child, or exposure of a subject child to recent, significant and/or escalating family violence resulting in serious psychological harm)
  • making directions for the filing of material in Response
  • orders for an Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL)
  • what directions might be needed to gather information about the matter from external sources, for example, orders to the state or territory child welfare authorities and police, requesting files from other courts for Family Violence/Intervention orders or related proceedings
  • whether a section 91B order for the intervention of the state child welfare organisation is appropriate
  • filing of subpoenas
  • orders for a priority section 62G Child Impact Report to be undertaken by Court Children’s Service
  • disclosure / financial statements
  • exchange of documents, and
  • listing the matter for the Evatt First Return Event and Interim Hearing.

3.3 There may be another chambers event before the Evatt Judicial Registrar to check compliance with the directions made, make inspections orders, or to follow up on the information gathering process. The aim is for there to be as much independent evidence before the Court by the time the matter is listed for the Interim Hearing, so that event it is meaningful and informed.

4. Urgent matters

4.1 Any urgent matters seeking short service or ex parte determination will be referred in the usual course to the relevant Duty Registrar for consideration of an urgent listing.

4.2 Parties will still be invited to undertake the Family DOORS Triage risk screen and an invitation sent in the usual timeframe. Whether a matter will be placed on the Evatt List will turn on the events and orders at the urgent hearing noting the benefits of the Evatt List accrue early, and the benefit of the ‘front end’ work and information gathering by the Evatt Judicial Registrar may have been lost.

4.3 For any urgent application that is made after a matter is placed on the Evatt List, the application will be immediately referred to the Evatt Judicial Registrar for consideration of an urgent listing either before the SJR or Judge.

5. The Evatt First Return Event

5.1 The Evatt First Return will be an appearance event before the Evatt Judicial Registrar within 6–8 weeks of allocation of a matter on the Evatt List. This appearance event will generally be conducted via Microsoft Teams.

5.2 The purpose of this event is to allow for an opportunity to:

  • speak with the parties about the expectations and case management approach of the Evatt List
  • hear the parties on any issue such as ICL appointments, any Applications in a Proceeding, interlocutory or administrative issues that can be progressed by consent (although the Evatt Judicial Registrar will, as appropriate, determine any issues that would otherwise inhibit the progression of the matter)
  • determine case management strategy for any parenting and, separately, financial relief sought
  • ensure general case management including compliance with previous orders with respect to service and/or filing of material, considering whether further material needs to be obtained, confirming appointment of the ICL, and
  • confirm next listing event and timing – including whether the matter is to proceed straight to Interim Hearing or involve a chambers case management event prior to the Interim Hearing.

Only in exceptional circumstances will this First Return Event not be listed or adjourned. This might, for example, occur where the matter needs to proceed to an urgent ex-parte hearing immediately after the Evatt Determination Event has had the benefit of an urgent Interim Hearing listing prior to Evatt listing.

6. Interim Hearing

6.1 The Interim Hearing will take place before a SJR within 10–12 weeks of the matter being allocated to the Evatt List. The parties and their lawyers are expected to attend, however safety plans should be implemented where needed.

6.2 By the Interim Hearing, the SJR should have before them:

  • any information available from the police or the child welfare authority pursuant to any section 69ZW orders made by the Evatt List Judicial Registrar in chambers
  • family violence orders
  • a section 62G report undertaken by Court Children’s Service (preferably in writing, but orally in cases of genuine urgency), and
  • financial statement and financial questionnaire (if financial orders are sought).

6.3 The purpose of the Interim Hearing will be to:

  • conduct an Interim Hearing to determine any interlocutory orders and Applications in a Proceeding
  • undertake case management to determine the future conduct of the matter through the Evatt List pathway
  • identify whether there are opportunities for resolution or for the matter to be fast tracked to trial, and
  • list the matter for mention before the Evatt Judicial Registrar who has had the carriage of the matter for further case management.

6.4 To avoid any delays in proceedings, the SJR will consider whether a Family Report should be ordered pursuant to section 62G of the Family Law Act 1975 or whether any other single expert reports, or valuations are required to progress the matter.

7. Evatt Mention and Case Management

7.1 Following the finalisation of all interlocutory issues (including dispute resolution opportunities), the matter will be listed for Mention before the Evatt Judicial Registrar no later than 8 months from the date of being placed on the Evatt List, or such other date as the judicial officer considers appropriate taking into account the circumstances and needs of the matter. This may also include an additional registrar-led compliance check to enable the release of material or expert reports, as well as consideration of subpoenas and any other procedural orders.

7.2 The purpose of the Mention will be to review the progression of the matter, compliance with previous orders, and move the matter onto the next step with a view to finalisation, either through settlement or listing for CRH before a Judge.

7.3 If the Evatt Mention is required, the Evatt Judicial Registrar will:

  • confirm compliance with previous orders and/or directions made by the Judge/SJR
  • consider any settlement/Family Dispute Resolution options, particularly if the parties now have the benefit of the expert’s report
  • if financial orders are sought, consider the outcome of any conciliation conferences and readiness to proceed
  • consider any costs orders for non-compliance, and
  • list the matter for CRH.

7.4 To prepare a matter for the CRH and trial at the Evatt Mention the Judicial Registrar will:

  • ensure, by the making of relevant orders, that any required single expert report will address the specific issues in the matter, and that the report can be prepared in a timely manner
  • make directions for the filing and serving of amended Application/Response and affidavits of evidence-in-chief
  • confirm with parties the realistically anticipated length of the trial, and
  • make any further procedural orders deemed necessary in the management of the matter to ensure the parties are able to comply with the requirements of the Central Practice Direction prior to the CRH.

7.5 The parties and their lawyers are expected to attend the Evatt Mention in person (subject to any safety plan).

8. CRH and Trial

8.1 The matter will be listed for a CRH before a Judge approximately 10 months after being placed on the Evatt List. The Judge who conducts the CRH will make trial directions which may include:

  • release of any single expert reports
  • a trial plan, for example, setting out the number of witnesses and days for trial
  • list the matter before a Judge for trial
  • make any procedural orders deemed necessary in the management of the matter, and
  • consider if there are any Family Dispute Resolution options in the matter (if safe to do so).

The matter will be listed for trial before a Judge who has been nominated to hear Evatt List matters.

8.2 The parties and their lawyers are expected to attend for the CRH in person (subject to any safety plan). Prior to the CRH, each party will be required to comply with the requirements of Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management with respect to documents filed and any orders made.

8.3 Division 12A Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) applies to Evatt List matters, however the nature of the evidence of some witnesses may fall within the exception in section 69ZT(3)(a).

9. Safety planning at court

9.1 It is expected that the Evatt List will involve the most vulnerable and at-risk litigants. As such, it is essential that parties feel safe participating in court events.

9.2 It is paramount that any safety concerns are brought to the attention of the Court (via the relevant Legal Case Manager or Associate) so that safety planning can be arranged for court events throughout the Evatt List pathway. The Court will continue to facilitate safety plans and will consider any reasonable request for attendance by electronic communication. You should contact the Court via Contact Us if you have any questions about safety planning or attendance by electronic communication.

10. Orders

10.1 For practitioners unfamiliar with the family law jurisdiction, the Court has some online resources to assist with the preparation of orders sought in an Application/Response.

10.2 The Court also recommends you read the brochure ‘Parenting Orders – what you need to know’ which has been prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department with the assistance of Professor Richard Chisholm AM.

11. Further practice information

11.1 This Guide applies to all matters in the Evatt List.

11.2 Other practice information on matters commenced in the FCFCOA is available on the Court’s website.

12. Communications in an Evatt List matter

12.1 When communicating with the Court about an Evatt List matter, lawyers are to put their requests in writing by eFiling the request as correspondence and emailing the Court, copying in each other party to the proceeding, confirming that the request has been eFiled.

12.2 When emailing in an Evatt List matter, it is expected that a party will:

  • address the email to the specified email address and not to the Judicial Registrar directly
  • clearly state the Court’s file number, parties’ names, and any court dates in the subject heading
  • provide a clear description of any attached documents in the body of the email, and
  • copy the message to all other parties (if applicable).

12.3 Any communications to the Court from a party must be about non-disputed matters and are not to be without notice to the other parties. For any disputed matters, an Application in a Proceeding will need to be filed.

13. Enquiries and contact information

13.1 Contact details for the Court’s registries are available on the Court’s website.

14. Commonwealth Courts Portal

14.1 Filed documents in a matter can be viewed by parties or those authorised by a party on the Commonwealth Courts Portal (CCP). The CCP provides web-based services for court users to access information about matters before the Court. Parties may register for the CCP to gain access to documents which have been eFiled, as well as orders of the Court, judgments, and listing events (past or future).