Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk - new Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia form to come into effect on 31 October 2020

27/10/2020

The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts) are implementing a new form on 31 October 2020 – the Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk.

The Courts have provided the following information about the form.

What is the purpose of the new form?

The Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk harmonises the approach taken to risk notification in the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts).

The new form will replace and consolidate the three existing prescribed forms of the Courts:

• Notice of Risk;

• Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (Current Case); and

• Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (Application for Consent Orders)

while ensuring the Courts’ mandatory obligation to report allegations of child abuse, family violence or risks of child abuse or family violence is being fulfilled pursuant to sections 67Z – 67ZBB of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). The new form will assist in ensuring that families and their children receive appropriate and targeted intervention in the family law system.

The new form has been redrafted in consultation with the Joint Rules Harmonisation Working Group, the Joint Family Violence Committee, Judges, Registrars and staff of the Courts, in consultation with national, State and Territory Bars, law societies, legal aid and child welfare agencies.

Detailed instructions including when the form is required, and how to complete and file the form can be found at pages A and B of the new form. Relevant definitions and guidance for completing each question are also included in the form.

The Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk is facilitated by amendments to the Family Law Rules 2004 and the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001. The Rules will be available on the Federal Register of Legislation from 31 October 2020.

What are the benefits of the new form?

The new form is:

• Harmonised – It aligns current practices in both courts. The new form must be filed with every Initiating Application, Response or Application for Consent Orders seeking parenting orders, regardless of whether an allegation of child abuse, family violence or other risk is being made.

• Comprehensive – In addition to capturing information about child abuse, family violence, substance abuse and mental health, the new form also captures more detailed information about different kinds of abuse and family violence, abduction and threats of harm, safety and wellbeing, and safety at court.

• Electronic – It is available both as a fillable PDF and a Word document, meaning you may download and save the form, and fill and sign it electronically if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader. Please refer to instruction page B for more information about using the form electronically.

The form also:

• aligns the practices of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia;

• harmonises the timing for when a Notice is filed by making its completion mandatory at the time of filing an Initiating Application or Response;

• enables a Judge or Registrar to consider multiple risk issues in addition to child abuse or family violence, such as mental health, substance abuse and threats of harm, and their impact, at an earlier stage in proceedings;

• streamlines and simplifies the court process for litigants, irrespective of which court they are in; and

• provides more holistic information about a family to the relevant child welfare agency, to enable early assessment of risk and referrals where appropriate.

What is the impact of the new form?

The new form must be completed by all parties filing an Initiating Application, Response or Application for Consent Orders where a parenting order is sought from 31 October 2020.

Applications that are part way through completion but have not yet been lodged for filing on the Commonwealth Courts Portal by 31 October 2020 will also need to complete the new form. In the Family Court of Australia, the Notice is required to be filed:

• Together with an Initiating Application or Response seeking parenting orders (including parenting and property orders); or

• With an Application for Consent Orders if an agreement has been reached about parenting arrangements and you want the Court to make orders in those agreed terms; or

• If you have become aware of new facts or circumstances that may constitute family violence or child abuse, and have previously filed this form or its predecessor.

In the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Notice is required to be filed:

• Together with an Initiating Application or Response seeking parenting orders (including parenting and property orders); or

• If you have become aware of new facts or circumstances that may constitute family violence or child abuse, and have previously filed this form or its predecessor.

Accompanying affidavit - If an allegation of child abuse or family violence or risk is made in the Notice, an affidavit must be filed setting out the evidence on which the allegation is based. In the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, this may be in the affidavit filed with the Initiating Application or Response.

Service – The Notice must be served on all other parties and any other relevant person as outlined in the form at questions 7 and 14.

eFiling – The new form should be eFiled (along with other documents) wherever possible using the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

Referral to a child welfare agency – the Notice will be referred to the relevant child welfare agency if:

• The answer to question 6 is ‘Yes’ – “Has a child to whom proceedings relate been abused (or are they at risk of abuse) by a party to proceedings or any other person relevant to these proceedings?”; or

• The answer to question 13e is ‘Yes’ – “Do you allege that a child to whom the proceedings relate has suffered (or is at risk of suffering) serious psychological harm from experiencing family violence directly or indirectly?”


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