Family Court Process
The thought of going to court can be daunting, however in some circumstances it may be unavoidable. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia merged into one on 1 September 2021, now under a single set of rules in an effort to reduce delays. Although they have been consolidated, there is still a structure to the FCFCOA creating two divisions. Division one is effectively the former Family Court of Australia only dealing with family law matters. Division two is effectively the former Federal Circuit Court of Australia, hearing matters in relation to family law in addition to general federal law.
Save for urgent or exempted matters, the court expects that parties try resolve issues through mediation prior to filing in court. However, if mediation is unsuccessful, an application to court can be made. Throughout the proceedings parties will still have the opportunity to negotiate and reach an agreement outside of court, this can be done by way of consent.
Initiating Application and Response to Initiating Application
An initiating application is the first step to commencing a court proceeding for a parenting or property matter. One of the parties must make the application to court and the other party must respond. The application will provide the court with the relevant information the court needs to understand the matter and the orders in which the applicant would like the court to make. A series of documents need to be prepared alongside the application in order to start the process, which then will be filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
The specific documents required will be dependent on the nature of orders sought, however will often include an 'affidavit', a 'notice of Child abuse, family violence or risk'; a 'parenting (or financial) questionnaire', and a 'genuine steps certificate'.
Once your document has been filed with the court, there is a requirement to formally serve the other party. Once the other party (Respondent) has received the document they will be required to file a 'response to initiating application' along with supporting documents in preparation for the first court event.
What do I do if I have been served?
If you are the respondent in proceedings, it is important not to simply ignore it. You should respond formally to the application by filing a response with supporting documentation.
If you fail to take action and file a response, there is a genuine risk and likelihood that the Court will grant the orders sought by the applicant following an undefended hearing.