Important Family Court Changes 2021

The newly created Federal Circuit and Family Court Australia (FCFCOA) commenced operations on the 1st of September 2021. The primary objective of this newly established Family Court is to streamline family court proceedings, essentially guided by the overarching principle of “facilitating the just resolution of disputes according to law and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible”.

What does this mean for you?

The new FCFCOA Act and its Rules, impose obligations on parties to make genuine attempts to resolve their dispute before commencing an action in Court.

Those requirements include that a Written Notice of an intention to start proceedings is provided to the other party at least 14 days before filing an Application in the FCFCOA.  There are costs penalties the Court may order against a non-compliant party.

In addition, the party filing in Court must also file a “Genuine Steps” Certificate which confirms that the pre-action requirements of the Court have been complied with or alternatively petition the Court for an exemption from complying with the pre-action proceedings.

The pre-action procedures include that parties must:

  • Invite other parties to participate in dispute resolution; and;
  • Disclose and exchange relevant documents and information.

If proceedings are commenced, parties must file a written notice with the Court, in which they acknowledge their obligation to make timely full and frank disclosure of all relevant information.

The new Court now takes a much closer interest in the legal costs that each party is incurring and require the exchange of costs information between parties and to the Court.

The focus of the Court is now squarely on the expectation that the parties will make genuine attempts to resolve their disputes prior to bringing an action before the Court.

It of course remains to be seen as to what if any sanctions the Court is prepared to impose on non-complying parties.  The Rules allow the Court to impose costs penalties against the non-complying parties or to stay proceedings pending compliance. Whether it will or not remains to be seen.

If parties have reached agreement, those agreements can be reduced into writing and made enforceable by the filing of Consent Orders in the FCFCOA or by entering into a Binding Financial Agreement.

Johnston Withers Lawyers: Experience You Can Trust

Johnston Withers has lawyers in Adelaide, Murray Bridge, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Clare. The aim of our Family Law practitioners is to provide cost effective advice in pursuing your entitlements under the Act.  If you would like assistance please call Nic Kernahan on (08) 8231 1110 or contact us online.

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