Blissett v Radke-Blissett [2020] NZFC 9071

Published 26 February 2021

Application to appear via AVL — dissolution of marriage — relationship property — COVID-19 — global pandemic — international travel restrictions — Alert Level 1 — border restrictions — security concerns — Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010, ss 5, 14 & 16 — Property (Relationships) Act 1976 — Biggs v Biggs [2020] NZHC 1046 — Deutsche Finance New Zealand Ltd v Commissioner of Inland Revenue (2008) 23 NZTC 21,758, (2007) 18 PRNZ 710 — Trevarton v Warren [2017] NZDC 21332 — Re P (a child: a remote hearing) [2020] EWFC 32. This was an application to appear at hearing via AVL. The parties had been married and had separated; the respondent sought an order for the dissolution of marriage and the applicant sought an order for the division of the relationship property. The AVL application was opposed by the respondent, who sought for the matter to be adjourned. A court could make an order allowing a party or witness to appear via AVL if the criteria under s 5 of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act was met. The applicant, who lived in Canada and was not a New Zealand citizen, had made the same application previously and it had been declined on the basis of security concerns. The applicant reapplied on the basis that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness which made travel difficult; that she had previously overstayed in New Zealand and there was an Immigration New Zealand alert on her file; and that the world had now changed because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Court's main concern was security: the applicant had previously wanted to appear via AVL from her bedroom, but now provided evidence that she would be able to attend in a secure way with the presence of a registered Canadian solicitor. The Judge noted that the applicant ought to have made this application earlier in the piece as she would have known in March 2020, when New Zealand implemented international travel bans for foreign nationals, that she would not be able to enter New Zealand for some time. At the time of the hearing New Zealand was in Alert Level 1, with international travel restrictions still in place. The Judge concluded that an adjournment was not in the interests of justice as it was impossible to estimate when the New Zealand border might reopen. The Judge granted the application to appear via AVL. Judgment Date: 16 October 2020.