New Changes to the Family Court – by Sarah Bell, Senior Associate
Dealing with parties’ noncompliance with orders in family law proceedings has long been a headache for Judicial Officers in the Family Courts.
In a jurisdiction where emotions are often the driving force behind parties’ decision-making processes, it is all too common for orders to be breached by way of parties flagrantly disregarding orders made by the Court or otherwise making no reasonable attempt to comply with orders.
Long delays in having contravention applications dealt with has commonly led to parties not bothering to pursue the same, particularly given that contravention proceedings often fall by the wayside during family law litigation while the focus is on the primary issues before the Court.
This has led to few consequences for parties who have wilfully breached court orders.
In a bid to tackle this issue, a National Contravention List has now been created and will commence on 1 September 2021.
Under the new regime new, long delays will be abolished with contravention applications now being given a first return date within 14 days. The List is to be administered by Registrars who will triage and assess alleged contraventions and when appropriate refer the matter to a Judge. With the creation of the new List, the Court is sending a clear message that they expect orders to be complied with any alleged breaches of the same will be taken seriously and dealt with promptly.
In circumstances where parties are found to have breached orders without a reasonable excuse, penalties and sanctions will apply.
The List is designed to be cost effective for parties and to have matters addressed quickly, with the end goal of resolving matters without recourse to additional litigation.