The safety of children and families is the highest priority of the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts). For the first time in 20 years, the two Courts have been able to achieve the creation and implementation of one harmonised form to be used across both courts to identify issues of risk.
The new harmonised form, the Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk, commenced operation on 31 October 2020.
People involved in a parenting case in the Courts will now have a simplified way to provide information-at the very beginning of the process-outlining issues of family violence and other forms of risk. This may include (but is not limited to); child abuse, family violence, substance abuse and mental health, abduction and threats of harm, safety and wellbeing, and safety at court.
The new form replaces and consolidates three court forms, the Notice of Risk; Notice of Child Abuse; Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (Current Case); and the Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (Application for Consent Orders).
The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Hon Will Alstergren said the new Notice of Risk is a significant achievement and forms part of broader harmonisation and family violence-related projects that will make filing family law proceedings in the Courts a less complicated process, and lead to safer outcomes.
“It is critically important that Courts are aware, at the earliest point, of facts and information about safety and issues of risk. The new form will assist in ensuring that families and their children receive appropriate and targeted intervention in the family law system.
“This is an exciting initiative and one that will ensure that Judges, Registrars and Family Consultants in both Courts have comprehensive information in relation to child abuse, family violence and other risks at an early stage in the proceedings, Chief Justice Alstergren said.
The redesign of the Notice will also allow data to be captured from six key questions, to give the Courts a more concrete understanding of the risks present in parenting proceedings.
“This achievement is the culmination of many months of work by the Joint Rules Harmonisation Working Group and Joint Family Violence Committee, Judges, Registrars and staff of the Courts, in consultation with the profession and other stakeholders,” the Chief Justice added.