Frequently asked questions about the Family Court during the Covid-19 lockdown

19 April 2020

Frequently asked questions about the Family Court during the Covid-19 lockdown

Which matters is the Family Court dealing with under Alert Level 4?

The Family Court is operating in a limited capacity during the Level 4 lockdown by conducting hearings for urgent proceedings concerning the safety of vulnerable persons only, including children.

The Court has clearly identified “priority proceedings”, which are the only matters currently being dealt with under Alert Level 4.

The courthouse and registry are closed to the public, meaning that documents or proceedings need to be filed electronically or by post.

What are the priority proceedings?

Priority Family Court services are:

  • Without notice applications: Oranga Tamariki (s78 Interim Custody s39 Place of Safety)
  • Protection and related Orders (Family Violence Act)
  • Care of Children applications (family violence related)
  • Mental Health (applications for compulsory treatment orders) hearings
  • Other without notice applications: PPPR & PRA hearings
  • Hague Convention hearings
  • Substance Addiction (Compulsory Treatment) hearings
  • Public Health Order applications

What about matters that are not priority proceedings?

The Court is going to continue to function to the fullest extent possible at each level of Alert system, to ensure that matters move through court as efficiently as possible, and there is no lengthy backlog.

As we shift out of Alert Level 4, existing matters will be reviewed and triaged. Any matters with time pressures will be prioritised.

New applications can be made for non-urgent matters, however it is difficult to assess at this time when those applications will be dealt with by the Court.

Will hearings be held?

At present, all hearings that are urgent and time-limited are still being held, remotely. All other hearings and conferences have been adjourned until later dates, but parties are still expected to meet existing timetabling directions unless an extension of time has been granted.

As we drop from Alert Level 4 to Level 3 and lower, we expect to see further directions from the Court about which matters will be allocated hearing time, depending on how matters are triaged. It is possible those hearings will continue to be conducted remotely, until the alert levels drop further.

Can applications still be filed for temporary protection or interim parenting orders?

Applications for temporary protection or temporary parenting orders can be filed in urgent cases where the delay in proceeding on notice would present a risk of serious injury or undue hardship to the applicant or a child of their family.

Please call us on (07) 834 6000 if you are considering making an application.

We are happy to provide brief initial advice over the phone and discuss your eligibility for legal aid, if necessary.

Rebekah Revell is part of our Family Disputes team at Norris Ward McKinnon.

Family Disputes Team