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CHANGES TO AUSTRALIAN FAMILY COURT APPROACH

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

From September 1 2021 Family Court Chief Justice Algern has announced a crack down on “dirty divorces” and parents who do not adhere to Court orders.


The full article is below taken from the Courier Mail (Newscorp).

It is important that you seek the correct legal support and advise in relation to this news. It is not a blanket approach to all Court Orders, all situations and all parents as there will be considerations in all circumstances according to things such as:

  • The age of your children

  • The nature of the activity

  • The background of the parties concerned

  • External factors such as COVID

If in doubt speak to one of the Beck Law Team to find out how this impacts you.


Family Court to crack down on dirty divorces


If your ex is ignoring Family Court Orders for parenting or property, a crackdown on custody contraventions will begin on September 1. Here’s how it will work:


Parents will be jailed or fined for flouting Child Custody Orders while dodgy Lawyers face Compensation Orders in a crackdown on Family Court contraventions.


Divorcing couples who fail to sell or share assets, as ordered by a Judge, also face penalties.


Blasting the “time wasting’’ in drawn-out divorce disputes, Family Court chief Justice Will Alstergren today announced a crackdown on “a longstanding issue of noncompliance with Court Orders’’.


“All parties must comply with Court Orders unless a reasonable excuse, according to the law, can be demonstrated to the Court,’’ Chief Justice Alstergren said.


“For parenting cases in particular, the Orders have been made in the best interest of the child."


“A lack of compliance not only diminishes confidence in our system of justice, it also leads to wasted time and costs, and prevents parties from exiting the Court system and moving forward with their lives.“


From September 1, a new National Contravention List of cases will be assessed by a team of Court Registrars, who can try to settle disputes and refer the most serious cases to a Judge.


If a contravention is proven without a reasonable excuse – which might include Covid-19 lockdowns or quarantine Orders – a Judge can “impose appropriate penalties or sanctions’’.


These include jail, fines of up to $13,320 for breaches of parenting Orders, and Community Service Orders.


Parents or ex-partners who breach orders could also be forced to pay the other side’s legal costs, give their ex-partner catch-up time with the children, or made to pay their ex-partner compensation awarded by a Judge.


In extreme cases – such as taking a child overseas without the other parent’s permission – law-breakers could be jailed for up to three years.


Chief Justice Alstergren has also warned Lawyers they could be slapped with “personal costs Orders’’ if they help a client breach Court Orders, or launch “frivolous’’ complaints about noncompliance.


“The Court expects that all parties will comply with orders of the Court,’’ the new practice direction for Lawyers states.


“Alleged breaches of Court Orders will be taken seriously, and dealt with quickly."


“Parties who fail to comply with Court Orders without reasonable excuse will be subject to costs consequences, other penalties and/or sanctions.’’


Chief Justice Alstergren said breaching Court Orders “has long been a problem for our system’’.


He warned that Lawyers could be punished for deliberately dragging out divorce proceedings to charge more for Court battles that can last years.


“Legal practitioners … may also be subject to personal costs Orders if the application or defence of the application is determined to be frivolous or without merit, or where noncompliance with the Rules of Court is demonstrated,’’ his practice direction states.


“Legal practitioners and parties are required to …. facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible’’.


Complaints about ex-partners breaching Court Orders can be lodged with the newly merged Federal Circuit and Family Court, for a hearing within 14 days before a Registrar.


Chief Justice Alstergren said that in some cases it might not be possible to comply with Court Orders, “particularly where safety is concerned’’, such as family violence.





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