FCFCOA Merger – Family Dispute Resolutions | Smokeball

FCFCOA Merger – Family Law | Smokeball and FamilyProperty

Smokeball and FamilyProperty 2022 State of Family Law Conferences finish East Coast Tour 

The enhanced role of registrars is being noted as the biggest benefit of the newly merged Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCFCOA) with 43 per cent of delegates at Smokeball’s 2022 State of Family Law conferences in Brisbane and Sydney this week in agreement, adding that the reduced delays and backlogs (26 per cent) and clearer case pathways (20 per cent) were also being realised. 

However, 62 per cent are still challenged with the increased preparation of court forms and for court events, and 29 per cent of delegates are struggling to fully understand and apply the new rules. Despite this, 88 per cent of delegates feel more matters are reaching an interim resolution at dispute resolution events with only 12 per cent saying they are not reaching a resolution at all.

The last Smokeball 2022 State of Family Law conference took place yesterday in Melbourne and the roadshow has seen the collaboration of key judicial registrars, senior family law practitioners and supporters work together to help develop the understanding and practical processes of family lawyers across the East Coast. 

Delegates have explored the key rule changes, practice directions, cost changes, cost orders and the new timeframes of the court which was described as not a single event but a series of dispute resolution opportunities.  A full understanding of all the new rules and practice directions was deemed essential by speakers along with getting pre-action procedures correct.

Jane Oxley, CRO at Smokeball explains: “Family law practitioners around the country are working so hard to adapt quickly to the biggest change they have seen in 47 years, so we gathered excellent representatives across the system to navigate exactly what the changes mean and to identify the best practice solutions for everyone practising in this area. It has been very well received, especially for the practicality and honesty of the discussions we have been having and we are delighted to be able to provide a CPD event that will make a great difference”.

During the conference, Anna Baltins, Solicitor in Charge, Domestic Violence Unit, Legal Aid NSW spoke to delegates about the new approach taken by the FCFCOA to screen for domestic and family violence (DFV) risk through the Lighthouse Project and explained how family law practitioners can check for family violence and present next steps clearly as it occurs.

“AIFS research shows family violence or child abuse was present in 70 per cent of matters resolved by judicial determination, and 60 per cent of matters resolved by consent prior to trial,” Ms Baltins said. “There are many tools available to use with clients who are victims of DFV, who have committed or allegedly committed acts of violence, or who sit in both categories. By correctly assessing the risk and using specialist support, practitioners can minimise escalation and maximise engagement with clients as well as comply with their professional obligations.

“Materials such as the Law Society of New South Wales DFV guide or National Legal Aid’s Family Violence Law Help website are excellent resources to help screen for family violence, assess the level of risk and respond effectively, ensuring your clients and you remain safe and that you can refer them to the right support services,” she added.

Amanda Little, Principal Solicitor, Amanda Little & Associates added: “Family law practitioners are dispute ‘revolutionists’ and we are so happy to be part of this cultural shift to help families resolve their separation matters as quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently as possible. Practically it means we have a whole set of compliance requirements across FCFCOA rules, orders, CPD and speciality CPD and I encourage practitioners to learn how technology can reduce the personal burden of preparation and time management with the new process. We need to ensure that we feel supported while adapting to all this change within our busy practices”. 

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