The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has recently announced a number of changes to their Rules. Of particular interest to family lawyers are the following:
1. Amendment to the Rules to make it explicit that the Court can make Orders allowing the disclosure of family reports to appropriate welfare/child protection bodies and to Legal Aid bodies. Sub-Rule 23.01A(5) permits the Court to give a copy of the report (in addition to a party, a lawyer or an Independent Children’s Lawyer) to;
(a) A Children’s Court;
(b) A prescribed Welfare Authority;
(c) A Legal Aid Commission;
(d) The convenor of any legal Dispute Resolution Conference.
2. From 12 January 2015, a new Notice of Risk form must be filed with every Application (and Response) for Orders concerning children. The new form will replace the present Form 4. The new form was piloted in South Australia from 4 February 2013. It was recognised that throughout Australia, there has been a general lack of compliance with the requirements under the Act with respect to the reporting of risk in children’s matters. This limited and delayed the receipt by the Court of relevant information relating to the care of children and impacted the ability of the Court to act responsively in the face of risk allegations, especially in circumstances where the relevant Welfare Agencies had not otherwise been notified (which occurs after the filing of the Notice of Risk).
3. The new form will also broaden the matters about which the potential risk for children will be considered, including:
(a) Mental illness of the parent;
(b) Drug and alcohol abuse; and
(c) Serious parental incapacity.
It is intended that by identifying a wider range of risks, effective early intervention and case management can be implemented.
Di Simpson is a Partner of DDCS Lawyers, 18 Kendall Lane, NewActon, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600 or by email at email@example.com.