A “triage” approach is now a formal part of how the courts will deal with family law matters in the future. Reflecting on what Fox and Thomas has always adopted as the tried and true way to minimise expensive court proceedings this approach will now be applied by the court to all family law matters.
You may have heard of the merger of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia on 1 September 2021. The press regarding the merger has focussed on an intention of the Courts to triage financial and parenting matters at the first Court event and to stick to a strict timeline with the view to have matters resolved within 12 months of filing.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA) as it is now called, has 2 divisions. All matters start in Division 2 and proceed to Division 1 if they are complicated or on appeal.
The new rules focus on the parties undertaking pre-application procedures including a notice of intention to start a proceeding before they can file in the Court. The parties also have to file a certificate to show they have taken genuine steps to try and resolve the matter before instigating proceedings.
The hope is that parties use alternative dispute resolution to try and resolve matters prior to embarking on an expensive Court process. These alternative disputes resolution matters may involve mediation or Family Dispute Resolution arrangements.
There is now a Central Practice Direction which provides that even when you have your first day in Court, you will be triaged in most circumstances towards alternative dispute resolution, either internally or externally from the Court.
So far it appears that at the first Court event, judicial registrars are identifying the issues in dispute, encouraging parties to resolve smaller issues so that the only matters before the Court are the significant ones and consequently they will take less time.
At Fox and Thomas we always start our family law processes with obtaining a full understanding of the property or parenting matter, making proper disclosure and inviting the other party to an alternative dispute resolution process.
The new rules effectively reflect what we have been doing for the past 30 years in managing our family law matters.
We are hopeful that this new broom will sweep away aggressive adversarial behaviour in litigants and utilise the alternative dispute resolution process more effectively, both in terms of money and emotional damage.
If you have questions about these changes or other family law matters please contact a member of our family law team.