Family & Relationship Law 07 June 2022

The Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australia’s Critical Incident List

The impact on children who are exposed to domestic violence is significant.  Quite often, children may find themselves, as a result of domestic violence in the care of persons other than their parents, such as a grandparent, aunty, uncle or close family member who is able to adequately care for them.  Regrettably, there are logistical and practical difficulties for non-parent carers, such as the ability to enrol a child in education or access to medical assistance, given the ability to make such decisions falls with a child’s parent.  The inability to make prompt decisions may compound the trauma already experienced by a child who has been exposed to horrible and traumatic circumstances.

To address this issue, on 1 June 2022, the Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australia established a specialist Critical Incident List to assist non-parent carers to file an Application seeking orders for parental responsibility.

Last week, the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit & Family Court said:

“Family violence is a national disgrace, and far too often, results in the death of a parent at the hands of their partner or former partner. Australia has witnessed too many situations in which children are left without the care of their biological or legal parent following the murder of one parent and the death or incarceration of the other.

“It is an extraordinarily tragic and stressful time for the children involved, and the extended family members who are suddenly left to pick up the pieces and care for the children and make arrangements for their health and education.”

Previously, a non-parent party has been able to file an Application, but it has been provided no priority unless circumstances of urgency are made out.  This specialist list identifies the need to fast-track Applications where a child is not in the care of their parent as a result of death (including homicide), critical injury or incarceration relating to or resulting from a family violence incident and the need for a non-parent carer to be able to exercise parental responsibility.

The specialist list will commence on 6 June 2022.

Eligibility to file in the Critical Incident List

The criteria to file in the Critical Incident List is as follows:

  1. The applicant is a non-parent caring for the child or children 
  1. There is no parent available to care for the child or children as a result of death (including homicide), critical injury or incarceration relating to or resulting from a family violence incident; 
  1. The applicant is seeking orders for parental responsibility to enable appropriate arrangements to be made for the child or children (for example, authorities to engage with schools and health care providers, and this may or may not include an order for the child or children to live with the applicant); 
  1. There are no existing final family law or state/territory child welfare orders in place which relate to the child or children’s care arrangements with a non-parent or allocating parental responsibility of the child/children to a non-parent.

What happens once you file the Application

Once the Application is filed, the Application will be assessed by the National Assessment team for meeting the above criteria.  If approved, the matter will be listed within 7 days before a Judge.  By way of comparison, an application is generally listed within 28 days.


The Critical Incident List should assist providing children and non-parent carers with support to obtain outcomes that best assist children in already challenging and difficult circumstances.  The specialist list will have appropriate, progressive resources to assist children experiencing trauma in horrible circumstances.

If you have queries about the Critical Incident List, please contact our Family & Relationship Law team for a 30 minute no cost consultation to provide you with tailored advice in relation to you and your individual circumstances.  Our lawyers continue to work remotely and are available for telephone and Skype/ Zoom appointments.  Our Family & Relationship Law team is here to help you navigate difficult issues during these difficult and unprecedented times.

Bonnie Phillips.
Bonnie Phillips Principal Lawyer Head of Family & Relationship Law View profile
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