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Two NSW solicitors were appointed to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia in August, as part of a recruiting drive to handle rising caseloads amid COVID-19.

Registrars Lynda Maitland (pictured left) and Sandra Soden (pictured right) are both practising family lawyers in NSW and were appointed as registrars to the courts on 14 August. Five other registrars were also appointed in Victoria and Queensland. 

The appointments come after the Family Court reported a 39 per cent increase in matters filed between April and June. Sydney Registrar Brett McGrath told LSJ this surge was partially fuelled by interruptions to parenting orders during lockdown – such as the closing down of supervised visitation centres and border closures making it impossible for cross-border families to comply with previous parenting arrangements.

Practitioners have also flagged concerns about a rise in domestic violence cases heading for family courts amid the pandemic. A survey of 15,000 Australian women by the Australian Institute of Criminology, published in July, found one in 10 experienced domestic violence during the pandemic. Of those women reporting physical or sexual violence, two-thirds reported experiencing violence for the first time or an escalation in violence. 

“Family violence groups spoke to the Chief Justice [at the start of the pandemic] and warned of an increase in family violence matters relating to the lockdowns,” Registrar McGrath told LSJ in June. 

“We realised we needed to have a dedicated COVID-19 list to respond to this heightened demand for family law services in the community.”

Registrar Maitland will be based in the Sydney registry, lending more than 12 years of family law experience to the court as well as a Specialist Accreditation in Family Law from the Law Society of NSW. Registrar Soden will carry out her registrar duties in the Parramatta, Wollongong and Sydney registries. She holds a Specialist Accreditation in Family Law and has been the principal of her own firm in western Sydney for six years.