COVID -19 - Family Law Update – one week down hopefully three to go!
We are now one week into a four week lock down. Below is some of the information that has been released over the past week for the Family Jurisdiction.
The Cavell Leitch Relationships team are now all working remotely from home. This week we have conducted Mediations with success via Zoom, signed off Contracting out Agreements via Skype – we have all entered a new electronic world and for the most part this is working well. We are all still taking instructions and continuing to act for our clients in this stressful time. Here is some information that has been circulated this week:
All Family Court events up to the 27th April 2020 will be rescheduled. If you have a matter scheduled during Level 4 this will not be heard and the courts will be in touch with a future date.
Guidelines have been provided for applications to be filed without having to physically see your solicitor. Urgent applications can all be filed electronically.
Service now includes electronic service.
If you are waiting on a specialist report from the Family Court – these will not be released during Level 4.
Only urgent applications are being received and reviewed by the Family Court at this time. If you are unsure what this means or if your matter would fall into this category please get in touch for advice.
Priority proceedings for the Family Court during Alert Level 4 will include:
Those with statutory timeframes such as applications for Compulsory Treatment Orders, IDCCR, Protection Orders or interim custody/care and protection orders;
Those involving vulnerable parties such as welfare guardianship or property orders under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act;
Those arising out of social dysfunction and family harm;
Family violence proceedings, including without notice applications for protection orders and urgent variations to parenting orders, will be a priority for the courts.
If you are having ongoing issues with your parenting arrangements do not hesitate to contact our team. We published an article last week with guidelines from our Principal Family Court Judge, this can be found here. Essentially parenting arrangements can continue if you are within the same community, children are only being exposed to “bubbles” across households and this can be controlled. The Ministry of Justice have also provided a helpful set of FAQ’s which can be found here.
Children can continue to move between two homes, unless:
It is more than one hour's drive between homes.
The child is unwell. In this case the child should not travel between homes until they are well.
Someone in either home is unwell.
Someone involved (i.e. the child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has been overseas in the last 14 days, OR has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for COVID-19 OR has been in close contact with someone who has the virus.
If children are moving between homes:
They should be accompanied by an adult.
Private vehicles should be used, where possible. Public transport can be used where there are no alternatives.
It may be useful to take a copy of the parenting order with you, to help explain your travel.
It is predicted that through this very uncertain time that domestic violence within homes may rise. Families are dealing with financial implications, lockdown, entertaining children, coping with children on a solo basis, lack of socialising and a number of other factors. Mental health, substance abuse and relationship strain may also have affect. The government last week announced it would give an extra $27 million to social service providers like the Salvation Army and Women’s Refuge to help over this time. If you are concerned about any form of abuse please do not hesitate to contact us for advice – if the matter is urgent phone the police.
This seems to be case by case and you should get in touch with your assigned Mediator to make enquires about your case.