I am sure we all remember the iconic Spice Girls and their hit song "2 Become 1".
Well, their song is also a great title for what happened in Australia’s Family Court system this week. Now, there is no more Federal Circuit Court and Family Court… It is now the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. Prior to the merge, each court had separate rules and court forms. Now, they will both follow the same rulings and forms to provide a more uniformed approach to family law.
Court As A Last Resort
The merger and new rules reflect the well-known message that, in family law, court is the last resort. There has also been an implementation of further obligations on each of the parties involved and their lawyers. This is aimed to increase the participation and use of other avenues, such as, dispute resolution, as a first resort.
A genuine steps certificate has to be filed when you start a family law court case. This certificate is to satisfy the court that the pre-action procedures have been complied with, which include attempting to resolve a dispute through negotiation or mediation, exchanging options for settling in writing, providing financial disclosure, and giving notice of an intention to go to court if an agreement is not reached.
Exemptions may be granted where there is urgency, or where it would be inappropriate to engage in negotiations, for example, risks of harm or violence. For any interim application, evidence must be included in an affidavit setting out the attempts at resolving the dispute, without asking the court to decide at an interim hearing.
Parties will also be required to file a notice confirming they have complied with their obligations in providing financial disclosure to the other party.
Both parties must make an offer to settle after a Conciliation Conference (or 28 days after the first court date if there is no Conciliation Conference).
Previously, courts would require your lawyer to provide you and the other parties with a costs notice. This notice involves setting out what costs you have paid and incurred to date, and estimated costs moving forward, usually before a hearing or court assisted dispute resolution. Your lawyer is now required to provide a costs notice on or before the first court event, which will also be given to the other party and the court (and vice versa).
How Does This Affect Me When My Case Has Already Been Started?
The new rules and procedures apply to all court cases – that means cases that are already going, and new cases that are filed, from 1 September 2021.
The court will be able to decide if compliance with a provision in the new rules would operate unfairly or cause injustice, for existing matters only. That is, if one of the new steps required under the rules may cause your existing matter to be delayed, or extra costs for a document that needs to be prepared today that did not need to be prepared yesterday, the court may say “you don’t have to comply with Rule X”.
If you or a loved one require any assistance in relation to family law matters, our team is here to help. With your best interests in mind, we can achieve the possible outcome for you and your family. Contact our family lawyers today on 1300 599 999.
*Disclaimer：This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action.*
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