It is timely to remind family law practitioners and parties to family law disputes of the restrictions placed on filing applications where there is an expectation of a hearing date being allocated prior to Christmas. 

Each year the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court experience an influx of applications late in the year, many seeking a hearing in relation to a dispute regarding Christmas holidays and travel issues. 

This surge in applications adds to the already congested lists of both courts, where at present an initiating application or application in a case has an estimated return date ranging between six to eight weeks from the date of filing. 

In anticipation of the “Christmas rush” of filing applications, the Family Court of Australia has, pursuant to the Family Law Rules, implemented a filing cut off for those matters requiring a hearing prior to the Christmas shut down that commences on 24 December 2014.  Nationally such applications must be filed by no later than 4.00pm on Friday, 14 November 2014.  In 2014 this date will be extended to 4pm on 17 November 2014 in Brisbane alone, as the registry will be closed due to the G20 Summit public holiday on Friday 14 November 2014.

The Federal Circuit Court has no prescribed cut off, however the anticipated return date of an initiating application or application in a case is also six to eight weeks from the date of filing. 

Applications brought urgently will be assessed by a Registrar on a case by case basis and listed accordingly.  Such urgent matters might include preventing the removal of children from the jurisdiction of the court and orders for their recovery; or the preservation of assets and other injunctive relief in property matters.

Overseas travel

It is often overlooked that pursuant to section 65Y of the Family Law Act, parents in current proceedings must first obtain the written consent of the other parent or guardian prior to removing a child from the jurisdiction of the court, even if only for a brief holiday overseas. 

If the consent of the other parent is not forthcoming, the Court is unlikely to consider an application brought by a parent intending to travel as urgent if there is no agreement. 

Conversely, a parent seeking to prevent the removal of a child or children from the jurisdiction of the Court, may well have an application listed on an urgent, often ex parte basis as discussed above. 

For those reasons we urge clients to first obtain the written consent of the other parent prior to making potentially costly travel plans.  If such consent cannot be obtained, an application should be filed without delay to have those travel plans endorsed by the Court by way of orders.