FCFCOA Practice Direction – COVID-19 Special Measures

(PD-COVID)

1. Introduction

1.1 This Practice Direction applies to all family law, migration and general federal law applications, including appeals, filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court).

1.2 Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, where appropriate and necessary, the Court is modifying practices in order to minimise the attendance of legal practitioners and parties at registries, with the Court's priority being the health and safety of judges, staff and the community. Noting the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, this Practice Direction may be regularly updated.

1.3 This Practice Direction applies to all proceedings commenced on or after 1 September 2021. This Practice Direction will also apply to all proceedings commenced prior to 1 September 2021, unless unfair or impractical to do so.

1.4 This Practice Direction revokes and replaces Joint Practice Direction 2 of 2020: Special Measures in Response to COVID-19.

2. Filing of all documents

2.1 To facilitate matters being dealt with electronically, legal practitioners and parties must eFile or eLodge all documents.

2.2 Documents should only be lodged for filing by email to the relevant registry if they are unable to be eFiled or eLodged. In family law proceedings the following email addresses can be used to lodge documents for filing:

  1. Adelaide – Adelaide.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  2. Albury – Albury.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  3. Brisbane – Brisbane.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  4. Cairns – Cairns.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  5. Canberra – Canberra.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  6. Dandenong – Dandenong.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  7. Darwin – Darwin.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  8. Dubbo – Dubbo.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  9. Hobart – Hobart.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  10. Launceston – Launceston.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  11. Lismore – Lismore.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  12. Melbourne – Melbourne.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  13. Newcastle – Newcastle.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  14. Parramatta – Parramatta.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  15. Rockhampton – Rockhampton.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  16. Sydney – Sydney.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  17. Townsville – Townsville.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au
  18. Wollongong – Wollongong.filing@fcfcoa.gov.au

2.3 Court users who do not have access to the necessary electronic equipment, including unrepresented litigants, should contact the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 for assistance.

2.4 Hard copies of documents are not to be posted or delivered to the registry.

3. Subpoenas and inspection of documents

3.1 For information about electronic subpoena viewing and inspection, legal practitioners and parties should refer to the Special Measures Information Notice – COVID-19 Electronic Subpoena Inspection.

4. Annexures to affidavits

4.1 In family law proceedings rule 8.15(3) of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Family Law Rules) requires that all documents to be used in conjunction with an affidavit must be filed as an annexure or exhibit to the affidavit, when electronically filed or emailed to the registry.

5. Signatures on documents and affidavits

5.1 The Court acknowledges that the COVID-19 environment may pose significant challenges to having Court documents sworn or affirmed.

5.2 The Court will accept documents for filing that have been signed electronically by the deponent and/or the legal representative on record for that party. Documents may be signed electronically by affixing an electronic signature or by typing in the relevant space in the signature block.

5.3 If a person is unable to have a document witnessed in person, they should endeavour to have the document witnessed by a qualified witness via electronic means, including by video. Legal practitioners and parties should refer to the relevant State or Territory legislation for information about how to witness documents electronically.

5.4 If a person is unable to have a document witnessed via electronic means, the Court will accept documents for filing that have been signed without a qualified witness, except for an Affidavit for eFiling Application (Divorce). This is subject to the deponent of the document being made available by telephone, video-conference or in person at a subsequent Court event to swear or affirm that the contents of the document are true and correct to the best of their knowledge, information and belief, if requested by the presiding judicial officer.

6. Deferral of fee payments

6.1 Registry staff may be unable to process fee payments where they are working remotely and cannot access an eftpos terminal. In such circumstances, the registry staff member may 'defer' a fee payment for a scanned form or document that has been emailed to the Court.

6.2 Where registry staff are able to work from the registry, they will continue to process payments for documents that have been scanned and emailed to the Court.

6.3 The process for online payments, including when eFiling, will remain unchanged.

6.4 Legal practitioners and law firms can set up a direct debit account for the payment of filing fees by completing the Direct Debit Request Form on the Court's website. Direct debit accounts are not available for individuals.

7. Appeal proceedings

7.1 The Court will determine whether appeal listings can be conducted on the papers, by telephone or by other electronic means on a case-by-case basis.

7.2 Wherever possible, the Court's National Appeal Registry will contact legal practitioners and parties at least two weeks prior to the event to provide information about the arrangements for the appeal listing.

7.3 Legal practitioners and parties may contact the National Appeal Registry by email for further information. The relevant email addresses are:

  1. Eastern Appeals (Sydney) – easternappeals@fcfcoa.gov.au
  2. Northern Appeals (Brisbane) – northernappeals@fcfcoa.gov.au
  3. Southern Appeals (Adelaide/Melbourne) – southernappeals@fcfcoa.gov.au
  4. Western Appeals (Perth) – westernappeals@fcfcoa.gov.au

The Honourable Justice William Alstergren
Chief Justice (Division 1) | Chief Judge (Division 2)
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
Re-issued: 7 September 2021