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New court forms regarding risk of abuse

By November 16, 2020February 23rd, 2024No Comments

If you are involved in a parenting matter proceeding to litigation, you’ll be required to file initial information which notifies the Court whether consideration of risk of child abuse or family violence will be a factor in your matter. Previously, there were three different forms that could be filed and the procedure varied across the two courts that handle family law matters, the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia. Now, the Courts have revamped the process to streamline the family violence risk notification process and make it more effective—here’s what you should know.

Family violence risk notification

A single form for risk notification will now be implemented by the Courts (from 31 October), rather than the existing three different ones. These had been called the 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).

The new form is called the Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk and must be filed with every Initiating Application, Response, or Application for Consent Orders seeking parenting orders, even if there are no allegations of abuse, violence or other risk. The form is completed by all parties.

Note that applications that are partially completed 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.

The form was redrafted by the Courts together with law societies, bar associations, Legal Aid and child welfare agencies. The aim was to streamline and harmonise the approaches to risk notification that the two Courts had in place.

The new form also improves the process by harmonising the timing for when the Notice is filed, by making its completion compulsory at the time an Initiating Application or a Response is filed.

More targeted intervention

In addition, the intention was to be able to provide more targeted intervention where it’s identified to be needed. To this end, the new form will capture more detailed information in relation to the various types of risk that exist. The form captures info on child abuse, family violence, substance abuse and mental health issues, but also drills down into that info to capture more information about different kinds of abuse and family violence, abduction and threats of harm, safety and wellbeing, and safety at Court.

The benefit of including this more detailed information on the form is that the Courts will be able to get a better, more holistic picture of multiple risk issues at a much earlier stage of the proceedings.

Early intervention will be enabled by referrals to child welfare agencies where necessary. Referrals are based on the answers given to two questions on the new family violence risk notification form. If the answer to either of these questions is “yes”, a referral will be made:

“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?”

“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?”

Filing the new form in the Family Court

The new form needs to be filed:

  • 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.

Filing the new form in the Federal Circuit Court

The new form is required to be filed:

  • 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.

You can download the new family violence risk notification form and fill it in electronically and e-file it with the Commonwealth Courts Portal along with other documents. (The form will be available on both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia websites from 31 October 2020.)

Accompanying affidavit

If the new form includes any allegation of child abuse or family violence or other risk, an accompanying affidavit must also be filed, which sets out the evidence relating to the allegation. In the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, this may be in the affidavit filed with the Initiating Application or Response.

Source: Family Court of Australia

If you need advice regarding the new form or require assistance with any other family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please call Alliance Family Law.

You may also like to read our recent blog on the Lighthouse Project, which is a new initiative to better identify and help at-risk families.

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