Domestic violence and custody breaches will be fast-tracked through the Family Court if a parent or child is at risk.
Domestic violence and custody breaches will be fast-tracked through the Family Court if a parent or child is at risk.

Child safety fears: New rules for lockdown custody fights

THE Family Court issued new rules today to fast-track custody fights over COVID-19 lockdowns.

Judges will hear cases within three days if a parent or child is at "significant risk'' from domestic violence, as a "direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic''.

New practice directions issued today for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court state that applications for a hearing will be "triaged'' by a court registrar.

Cases deemed urgent will be referred to a judge for a hearing within 72 hours.

Cases will be heard electronically by any judge in Australia.

Parents can ask a judge to change custody arrangements if a child or parent has tested positive for COVID-19 and "cannot fulfil the parenting obligations due to sickness or concerns of infection''.

Judges will also rule if a parent claims there has been "an increase in risk due to family violence resulting from restrictions imposed on families during the COVID-19 pandemic''.

Border restrictions will be taken into account, if the parents live in different states or territories and the child cannot travel between homes.

Judges will also intervene if parents cannot agree to an alternative arrangement if a supervised contact centre is closed.

Parents can email an application to the court, with a cover letter and an affidavit up to six pages long, outlining the "details of any current allegations of risk to children or parties, such as a risk of child abuse or family violence''.

The parent applying for a court order must copy the email to the other parent, "unless it is not safe to do so''.

Judges will rule on temporary custody arrangements until the end of the pandemic.

Warring parents must show they have made "reasonable attempts to resolve the issue, if safe to do so''.

Originally published as Child safety fears: New rules for lockdown custody fights


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