The merger of the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court on 1 September 2021 has seen the implementation of new forms and processes, one of which is the “Genuine Steps Certificate”.

This Certificate is required to be filed by both the Applicant and Respondent in Family Law proceedings commenced in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. The Certificate is intended to evidence that, prior to the commencement of proceedings, each party has made a genuine effort to resolve the issues which are in dispute by way of compliance with the pre-action procedures detailed in Schedule 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (“the Rules”).

Pursuant to the Rules, the following pre-action procedures must be complied with (unless a relevant exemption applies):

  • Each party is to make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute through dispute resolution (such as mediation) by:
    • providing the pre-action procedures to the other party;
    • making enquiries about the dispute resolution available to assist in the resolution of a dispute;
    • inviting the other party to engage in dispute resolution, with an agreed person or organisation;
    • cooperating with the other party to agree on an appropriate dispute resolution service;
    • participating in dispute resolution; and
    • providing written notice of an intention to commence proceedings in Court or responding to such a notice within the requisite time frame. 
  • In financial proceedings, each party ought to be exchanging their financial information.
  • In parenting proceedings, each party should exchange copies of documents relevant to an issue in dispute. 

You may be exempt from compliance with the above pre-action procedures if your matter is one in which: 

  • there are allegations of or a risk of child abuse or family violence;
  •  your matter is considered urgent;
  •  it would be unduly prejudicial to the applicant to expect compliance; proceedings were commenced less than 12 months prior; or
  •  the application relates to divorce, nullity or validity of marriage, child support or bankruptcy. 

There can be serious ramifications for non-compliance with the pre-action procedures, including a stay of your application, if a relevant exemption does not apply. You should always ensure you have complied with your pre-action obligations or obtained advice from a solicitor as to whether you may qualify for an exemption from compliance. 

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