The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has recently made a number of important amendments to the family law rules. These updates have come about after extensive feedback and consultation with up to 17 relevant stakeholders including State and Territory Bar Associations, Australian Bar Association, Law Council of Australia and National Legal Aid. Our Sydney-based team of top family lawyers have recently reviewed these changes and what it may mean for your matter.

What changes have been made to the Family Law Rules?

The recent amendments have brought about important changes to the way a family law matter is run in the Family Court System. You can view the entire list of changes on the Federal Register of Legislation, accessible here.i Family law legislation is a highly complex area of law which is why we recommend talking to our team of trusted family lawyers to help you better understand this area of law.

Amendment to Filing of Questionnaire with Initiating Applications

Notably, the amendments include the removal of the requirement to file a Parenting Questionnaire or Financial Questionnaire with every Initiating Application seeking parenting or financial orders. From 28 November 2022 a questionnaire is now only required to be filed where a party has not filed an affidavit with their Initiating Application or Response to Initiating Application. This change is aimed at making the filing process for parties more efficient and cost effective.

The Court further noted that where parties are required to file an affidavit with their Initiating Application or Response to Initiating Application, updated instructions to the affidavit form will be published within the next two weeks to provide guidance on the evidence that should be included.

Additional procedural changes

Other important changes to the case management system include:

  • Changing the form for seeking rescission of a divorce order from an Application for Review to an Application in a Proceeding;
  • Requiring that an application must concisely state the orders sought;
  • Inserting new rules requiring that the Annexure to Proposed Consent Parenting Orders be attached to an application for interim parenting orders proposed to be made in chambers, as was already required for final orders;
  • Allowing draft consent orders to be signed by a party’s legal representative;
  • Providing for the court to accept the opinion of a court-appointed assessor unless there are exceptional circumstances; and
  • Allowing the court to consider an Application for Review in chambers if the parties consent, and requiring parties to seek leave for any further evidence to be filed in support of an Application for Review

Increased delegations to Judicial Registrars

To better improve the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the court system the amendments have further delegated powers to Judicial Registrars in dealing with aspects of a family law case. Some important delegations include the ability to:

  • deal with an application for an interlocutory consent order
  • order a party to undergo drug or alcohol screening or testing;
  • make orders in relation to costs, costs estimates, and assessment of costs
  • issue a subpoena, order the production and inspection of documents, and hear subpoena objections;
  • summarily dismiss an application that has no reasonable prospects of success;
  • make summary orders in response to a claim by a party that an application or response is frivolous, vexatious, or an abuse of process, or that an application has no reasonable likelihood of success.

These recent amendments to the Family Law Rules will have significant consequences on how a family law matter is run moving forward. If you have any questions or comments on what these amendments may mean to your matter please contact our expert team of family lawyers for assistance.