How do I start proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia?

How do I start proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia?

Have you recently separated from your partner and want to divide your assets on a final basis?

Are you having difficulties reaching a workable co-parenting arrangement?

Many people think that commencing proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia is simple: parties each engage a lawyer, tell their side of the story and the matter is resolved by the Court without a second thought.

What they don’t know is that there is a set of processes that both parties must complete before even approaching the Court called ‘pre-action procedures’. When these procedures are followed correctly, they can speed up the Court process by allowing each party to figure out what the main issues are for resolution. Even better, following the pre-action procedures may even allow parties to resolve their family law matter without needing the assistance of the Court at all.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) commenced on 1 September 2021 and introduced a revised pre-action procedures to be completed prior to filing Court proceedings. The streamlined procedures encourage parties to resolve their Family Law matters involving property and/or parenting.

Parties are now required to make a genuine effort to resolve the matter through Family Dispute Resolution before commencing Court proceedings for both property and parenting matters.

If this requirement is not met, or an exemption is not applicable, parties run the risk of the Court refusing to hear their matter until the pre-action procedures are completed. Failure to complete the pre-action procedures may cause your family law matter to stall and may increase your legal costs.

What do ‘pre-action procedures’ involve?

When a party initiates Court proceedings by  filing an Initiating Application, Schedule 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (the Rules) sets out that parties must include a Genuine Steps Certificate.

This is an additional form which tells the Court that both parties have attempted dispute resolution before approaching the Court to resolve their family law issues.

This is done by engaging with an external party called a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP), who will conduct dispute resolution such as mediation. Upon the completion of dispute resolution, the FDRP will provide the parties a Certificate of Dispute Resolution and/or a section 60 I certificate to show that the parties attempted dispute resolution before filing court proceedings. For more information on FDR and to locate an FDR Practitioner, visit the Family Relationships Online website.



How do I complete a Genuine Steps Certificate?

On the Genuine Steps Certificate, each party completes a different section to comply with the requirements:

  • The Applicant (whoever files the Initiating Application) must complete Parts A, B and D of the form.
  • The Respondent (the party completing the Response to the Initiating Application) must complete Parts A, C and D of the form.

The procedures that are required for a Genuine Steps Certificate include:

  • Provide a copy of the pre-action procedures to all other parties to the proceedings;
  • Make inquiries about available dispute resolution services;
  • Invite the other party to participate in dispute resolution
  • Participate in dispute resolution with the other party
  • Give the other party written notice of the intention to start proceedings
  • Agree on an appropriate dispute resolution service
  • Exchange copies of relevant documents with the other party

It is always important to know that if you are in a situation where there is family violence or child abuse, a risk of family violence or child abuse occurring, or it is an urgent family law matter, you may be eligible for an exemption from the pre-action procedures. If you need assistance due to family violence, the Family Relationships Online website has free resources for support and counselling. Alternatively you may contact Brazel Moore Lawyers and ask to speak to the Family Law Specialist Gosford.

There are also further steps to take specific to whether the matter is a property matter or parenting matter (or both), which includes the exchange of financial disclosure between parties and exchange of documents relating to the issues in the parenting dispute.

Why it helps to have an experienced Family Law Solicitor by your side

Dealing with separation, asset division and/or parenting issues is difficult enough without having to navigate preparation for Court proceedings.

Allowing a Family Law specialist solicitor to guide you through this process will give you peace of mind and assurance that all the required steps have been taken to resolve your matter efficiently.

As leading Family Law Specialists, we are committed to helping clients in quickly learning what their options are via cost-effective, fixed- priced initial consultations to suit your needs.

At Brazel Moore Lawyers, we have an experienced Family Law team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track. Click here to see your initial consultation options.

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