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Lost or Destroyed Family Court Documents? What You Need To Do

By Callum Argaet

22nd January 2020

From the 2019 Floods to the 2020 Fires, natural disasters can have a devastating impact on the lives of many Australians, causing major disruption to everyday life, the community and essential services. The Courts are no exception. If you have are involved in or are about to start family law legal proceedings, and you or the other party have been impacted by a natural disaster, what should you do?

If you have a lawyer, you should contact them as soon as you are able to update them on your current situation. Your lawyer will be able to assist you if you have current proceedings, such as letting you know when your next Court event may be.

If you are unable to attend your next Court event due to the impact of a natural disaster, again, you should let your lawyer know immediately. Your lawyer may be able to advise the Court of your circumstances and let you know whether you need to attend the next Court event.

If you do not have a lawyer, you must attend all Court events. If you do not attend a Court event, Orders can be made against you in your absence or if it is your action, it could be dismissed completely. If you are not legally represented and cannot attend a Court event due to a natural disaster, consider obtaining immediate legal advice about your circumstances. For family law proceedings, you can contact the Court’s National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 to speak with a service officer about your situation. The Court’s service officers are not able to provide you with legal advice and can only offer limited information.

If your Court documents have been lost, damaged or destroyed as a result of a natural disaster, you should again contact your lawyer immediately to obtain copies of any critical documents such as Court Orders or Divorce Orders that you may need to rely on. If you are not legally represented and need copies of your Court documents, you can contact the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 or your nearest Family Court Registry to obtain the necessary forms to request replacement documents. If replacement birth, marriage or death certificates are needed, you should contact your nearest registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for assistance.

If your home and/or postal address has been affected by a natural disaster and you are expecting important correspondence from the Courts about your legal proceedings, you can contact Australia Post to hold or redirect your mail. You can also contact the family law Court’s National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 for any correspondence you may need copies of.

If your address for service has been affected by a natural disaster, and you need this address changed, you can do so by lodging a “Notice of Address for Service”. The relevant documents can be completed by your lawyer if you have one, or by obtaining the forms from the Court via the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 or downloading the form from the Court’s website.

If the Court itself has been affected by a natural disaster, the Court will release information about any affected registries and whether registries are closed. If your matter has been affected by a Court closure, you will be notified of this by the Court either directly or through your lawyer. The Federal Circuit Court and Family Court can be followed on social media such as Twitter for updates on Court closures.

If you have been affected by a natural disaster and are unsure how this affects your Court proceedings, it is important that you contact a lawyer or the Court to immediately advise of your change in circumstances. At wilson/ryan/grose, we are happy to assist in any way we can.

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