It’s now been one month since the merger of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia into the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCoA). Since we last wrote in March regarding the merger, the new rules governing the operation of the Court have been published, the Court has begun operation, and our lawyers have become familiar with the new processes. But has much actually changed?
The New Pathway
The FCFCoA brings with it a new pathway for how matters progress through the Court system. The new pathway presents more opportunities for settlement after proceedings have begun, which should result in quicker and cheaper resolutions for many matters that may have otherwise progressed to a final hearing.
Another key feature of the new case management pathway is the inclusion of a predetermined timeline. Alongside the steps in the pathway, the Court also prescribes how long each step should take, with the aim of most matters progressing to a final hearing within 12 months of filing, where appropriate.
Before filing proceedings, parties are now required to take ‘genuine steps’ to resolve the matter outside of Court. These steps can include attending family dispute resolution, complying with the duty of disclosure and communicating an intent to commence proceedings. Once genuine steps are taken, the parties should prepare a genuine steps certificate and submit this to the Court when filing proceedings. The intention of this process is to provide parties with more opportunities to resolve the dispute outside of the Court.
Importantly, when there is a risk or allegation of family violence to one of the parties or the children, a genuine steps certificate is not required.
The Final Result
Both of the above changes demonstrate the increased emphasis on dispute resolution outside of proceedings. With the introduction of a new case management pathway as well as the genuine steps certificate, matters will be more likely to settle before final hearing, or potentially before proceedings have even begun.
If you need assistance with your Family Law matter or have questions about the new FCFCoA, contact Frank Law on (02) 9688 6023.
This is not legal advice.