Published: 02 May, 2024

Practice and procedure update: Family Law Rules

Today the Courts are providing an update in relation to amendments to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Family Law Rules).

The Family Law Rules have been amended by the passage of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Amendment (2024 Measures No.1) Rules 2024 which has been approved by a majority of Judges. The amendments take effect from 6 May 2024.

The full instrument is available to download above.

The amended rules will be published on the Federal Register of Legislation in due course and included in the compilation of the rules, which will be available on the Register: Federal Register of Legislation - Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021

The below table summarises some of the key changes. Please note, this table is provided for information only, and does not displace the Explanatory Statement as the authorised statement that explains the purpose and operation of the rule amendments, as required by the Legislation Act 2003.

Topic Summary Rule references
Conciliation conferences and dispute resolution events

The amendments insert a definition of conciliation conference into the rules, clarifies that the court may order a party to attend a conciliation conference, family dispute resolution or other dispute resolution event permitted by the Family Law Act, and that a dispute resolution event may be conducted by a judicial officer, which includes a Judge and a Registrar.

The amendments also clarify when a report should be provided after dispute resolution. For the purposes of this rule, the approved form is the Certificate of Dispute Resolution.

Subrule 1.05(1)

Rule 1.06

Rule 4.05

Rule 8.12

Orders on default

Rules 1.33-1.34 and Rules 10.26-10.27 have been amended with respect to when a party is in default and the orders the court may make when a party is in default. These amendments have removed the duplication between these rules, and clarified some options as to how an undefended hearing may proceed.

These amendments make the corresponding change to the powers delegated to Senior Judicial Registrars and Judicial Registrars.

Rule 1.33

Rule 1.34

Rule 10.26

Rule 10.27

Schedule 4, Items 14.7-14.8

Filing of interlocutory applications, and applications to vary/set aside orders

Amendments have been made to clarify when an application for interlocutory orders may be filed to seek an order under rule 10.13, and when an Initiating Application must be filed.

An application to vary or set aside a final order on the basis of fraud pursuant to paragraph 10.13(1)(b) must be made by way of an Initiating Application (Family Law). Other applications to vary or set aside orders may be made by way of an Application in a Proceeding.

Subrules 2.01(3) and (6)

Rule 5.02

Enforcement of parenting orders and contravention of orders – Part 11.2

The amendments have removed the concept of an application to enforce parenting orders.

The amendments have updated all of the rules that refer to sections of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that have changed due to the renumbering of Division 13A of the Act (Consequences of failure to comply with orders, and other obligations, that affect children). These rules primarily relate to contraventions.

These amendments also make the corresponding change to the powers delegated to Senior Judicial Registrars and Judicial Registrars.

Subrule 2.01(6)

Part 11.2 – rules 11.63 – 11.82

Schedule 4, Items 10.1-10.2

Change of name of a party The amendments state that if a written notice of the change of name of a party is filed, the title of the proceeding is taken to have been amended. Subrule 2.16(3)
How a document is filed and the time it is taken to have been filed This amendment states that a document is taken to be filed on the day it is lodged for filing, provided that it has been sealed, and provided that it was lodged prior to 4:30pm legal time on a business day in the location it was filed. Rule 2.23
Lawyer ceasing to act within 14 days of a final hearing This amendment states that a lawyer may not file a Notice of Ceasing to Act within 14 days of a final hearing without the leave of the court. Leave must be sought in writing. This could be by correspondence or by way of Application. Rule 3.10
Harmful proceedings orders Subrules have been added to rule 10.24 to set out some procedural rules with respect to harmful proceedings orders. A definition of harmful proceedings order has also been added.

Subrule 1.05(1)

Rule 10.24

Prohibition on publication of identifying details of family law proceedings The amendments update references to section 121 of the Family Law Act to the new sections that deal with the restriction on communications to the public of accounts of proceedings, being sections 114Q, 114R, 114S. Various notes to rules, e.g. rules 15.13, 15.23, 15.24.
Pre-action procedures – information to which parties must have regard The amendments update some of the factors to which parties must have regard in financial and parenting pre-action stages/proceedings, regarding the best interests of the child.

Schedule 1

In each of Part 1 and Part 2, Paragraph 1(5)(b)

Powers delegated to Senior Judicial Registrars and Registrars The amendments delegate powers relevant to the Family Law Act Amendments, including section 65DAAA, information sharing powers, and to determine whether there are exceptional circumstances to justify an Independent Children’s Lawyer not meeting with a child/seeking their views.

Schedule 4

Item 3.9

Item 19.4

Item 24.1

Forms update

On 23 April, the Courts published a practice and procedure update in relation to forms. Minor corrections have been made to:

  • Bond
  • Application for Consent Orders
  • Application – Enforcement

Two further forms have had minor updates to rule or section references made:

  • Certificate of Dispute Resolution
  • Warrant of Arrest

These versions are all on the Practice and procedure update: Forms page.