Our family law solicitors attended the Law Society’s ‘’Fundamentals of Family Law’ Workshop and here’s what you need to know about the new case management pathway!
On the 1st of September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia merged to create the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). As a result, new legal rules and practice directions were also introduced. These have shaped the case management pathway that family law solicitors and court cases must now follow. So, what exactly is the new family law case management pathway?
Once all legal proceedings are commenced, parties will typically follow the family law case management pathway consisting of:
1. First Court Event
2. Interim Hearing (if required)
3. Dispute Resolution
4. Compliance and Readiness Hearing
5. Trial Management Hearing (if required)
6. Final Hearing
First Court Event
Your first court event is a Directions Hearing and is before a Judicial Registrar. As a result of the merger, Judicial Registrar is active in proceedings from an early stage to encourage parties to reach a beneficial settlement, reducing costs, time and stress to all involved. This Hearing typically occurs within 8 weeks from the date proceedings are commenced. The Judicial Registrar will assess the matter and make appropriate court orders to facilitate the matter moving forward. This may include assessing the party’s compliance with pre-action procedures, ensuring the appropriate documents have been filed, assessing the need for experts to be called upon or an Interim Hearing, making directions for the parties to engage in dispute resolution or, in certain instances, referring the matter to Division 1 of the FCFCOA.
Before a Senior Judicial Registrar or a Judge, Interim Hearings determine interim applications brought by either of the parties. These typically occur at an appropriate and mutually agreed time having regard to whether the application has been listed on an urgent basis or if additional evidence is required.
Dispute resolution is arguably one of the most important and effective ways of settling your dispute early into the family law case management pathway. Conducted externally or facilitated by the court, dispute resolution including mediation, conciliation conferences and roundtable talks, are designed to assist the parties to resolve the dispute outside of court. Typically occurring within 3 – 5 months after proceedings have commenced, parties are encouraged to make a genuine effort to resolve disputes if safe to do so.
Compliance and Readiness Hearing
Similar to Interim Hearings, Compliance and Readiness Hearings are before a Senior Judicial Registrar or a Judge and typically follow the above dispute resolution event, or within 6 months from the date of commencing proceedings. In this hearing the presiding Judge or Senior Judicial Registrar will check to see if the parties have complied with court orders and court directions, ensuring that the parties have made a genuine attempt to resolve the matter. An assessment of the reason for continuing the matter to a hearing will be undertaken as well as exploring other options to resolve the matter before a trial. If it is determined that the matter should proceed to Final Hearing, the appropriate division and trial date/s will be allocated.
Trial Management Hearing
If a matter has been considered appropriate to proceed to a Final Hearing, the Trial Management Hearing before the allocated Trial Judge will occur before the commencement of the Trial. Here the Trial Judge can make if deemed appropriate, further orders and directions in the lead-up to the Final Hearing.
This is the final stage of the family law case management pathway and aims to settle disputes on a final basis. The effect of the merger hopes to see matters which do need to progress to Trial, do so within 12 months from the date of commencing proceedings. Trials can be costly, stressful and time-consuming and thus parties are encouraged to make genuine attempts to resolve the dispute before requiring a trial.
Given that the object of the new family law case management pathway is to streamline court events effectively and efficiently, there is little room for error. This is why it is so important that you have competent and reliable legal representation at each stage.
Offering careful preparation, competent legal expertise, and reliability, our top family lawyers in Sydney are here to help you along your legal journey.