New Obiligations on Parties in Family Law Disputes

18/11/2021

In September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia was merged into one Court now known as the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia. The merging of the Courts has brought some significant changes and obligations on parties to engage in pre-action procedures and attempt to resolve their dispute before they can issue Court proceedings unless they meet an exemption to do so in limited circumstances.

Prior to making an application to the Court for either parenting orders or a property settlement, it is mandatory that parties observe the following pre-action procedures:

  • Provide full and frank disclosure of all relevant documents to each other, such as:
    • Financial documents to identify the assets and liabilities of the relationship, such as bank statements, individual or company tax returns, superannuation statements, valuations (if available), loan statements, amongst others
    • All relevant information pertaining to their children such as school reports or medical reports if relevant.

Disclosure is an ongoing obligation for each party, so there may be several instances where you will need to exchange updated documents as the matter progresses.

  • Make a genuine attempt to negotiate a settlement including:
    • Make a genuine offer to the other party to settle the matter;
    • Narrow down the specific issues in dispute and identify issues that can be resolved.
    • If agreement cannot be reached after offers have been made, then -
      • Attend mandatory mediation with an approved Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner who can issue a section 60I Certificate at the conclusion of the mediation;
      • Make a genuine attempt at mediation to resolve the matter.
    • If agreement cannot be reached after mediation, and a section 60I Certificate has been issued, either party can then initiating proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

At Gordon Legal, we recommend that you obtain advice from an experienced family lawyer to assist you with navigating the pre-action procedures and negotiations. It is often invaluable to know your rights and where you stand in relation to a settlement before you make a settlement offer or engage in mediation. Having legal representation can put parties in a better position to reach agreements and avoid the stress and costs of court proceedings.

If you have reached an agreement with the other party, we can assist you with drafting formal settlement documents to formalise your agreement.

If you cannot reach a settlement after completing the pre-action procedures and mediation, we can assist you with making an application to the Court for a settlement.

Please contact Gordon Legal today if you require family law advice.

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