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New national contravention list to tackle family law non-compliance

A dedicated national electronic court list has been created to deal with contravention applications consistently and responsively.

The list, for the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, addresses a long-standing issue of non-compliance with court orders made in family law proceedings in those courts.

Applications will be given a first return court date within 14 days of filing.

The creation of the list, which will commence on 1 September, follows a recommendation by the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System in its second interim report released in March 2021.

Also commencing on 1 September is the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA), following the passing of legislation to amalgamate the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Will Alstergren, said that compliance in family law had long been a problem within the courts system.

“Unfortunately it has been our experience that we have found a lack of compliance with court orders, and it is an issue that people often complain about,” Chief Justice Alstergren said. “Notwithstanding the understanding that these disputes involve highly emotional and stressful situations, parties must comply with court orders unless a reasonable excuse, according to the law, can be demonstrated to the court.

“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.

“The court understands however, that people’s lives and circumstances may change and non-compliance with orders may be avoidable in some situations, particularly where safety is concerned. The national contravention list provides an easier way for parties to access the court for these types of matters and to have compliance issues dealt with expeditiously.”

A new practice direction and application form for the new contravention list will accompany its commencement.

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