Pre-action procedures – family dispute resolution for parenting disputes

Requirements before going to court for parenting orders

Except when filing consent orders, when starting court proceedings, separated parents must file a family dispute resolution certificate with their application, proving they have attended (or attempted) to resolve the matter amicably with the assistance of a family dispute resolution practitioner.

A family dispute resolution certificate is NOT required when it can be established that:

  • there has been abuse of the child by one of the parties to the proceedings or risk of abuse;
  • there has been family violence by one of the parties or risk of family violence;
  • there has been a contravention application, provided all the following points apply:
    • the application relates to a particular issue;
    • the order which has been contravened is not more than 12 months old; and
    • the contravener has shown a serious disregard for their obligations under the order;
  • it is an urgent application; or
  • one of the parties cannot effectively participate in family dispute resolution.

Mandatory pre-action steps

The parties must comply with their duty of full and frank disclosure which may include but is not limited to, providing copies of all information relevant to the issues in dispute which may include medical reports, school reports, letters, drawings and photographs.

Documents may not be used for any purpose other than to resolve or determine the dispute for which it was disclosed. There is an implied undertaking by all parties to that effect.

Participation in dispute resolution

To get started, separated parents should invite the other parent to participate in dispute resolution.  Further information is available at the Family Relationships website.

The parents must agree on a dispute resolution service and make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute by participating in dispute resolution.

If the matter settles at the dispute resolution conference, consent orders can be made to finalise what was agreed between the parents.

Family violence and other risks – The Lighthouse Project

The Lighthouse Project is a program available in some registries to assist families that have experienced family violence and other safety risks to navigate the family law system.  It will operate in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta registries.

The project includes:

  • early risk screening through a secure online platform;
  • early identification and management of safety concerns; and
  • assessment and triage of cases by a specialised team, who will provide resources and safe and suitable case management.

All cases identified as high-risk will be referred to a dedicated list, known as the Evatt List, which will focus on early information gathering and intervention through a judge-led support team.

Practice Direction No. 3 of 2020 – Lighthouse Project and Evatt List sets out the procedure and the commencement dates for the three registries mentioned above.

See The Lighthouse Project on the Family Court website for more information.

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