Commencing 1 November 2020, both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have introduced a new harmonised form for advising the courts of child abuse, family violence or risks of these behaviours.
The new form replaces the 'Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence' form in the Family Court of Australia and the 'Notice of Risk' in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
The form must be filed in both courts:
With an Application or Response seeking parenting orders, regardless of whether there are child abuse or family violence allegations to be made or not.
If a previous form has been filed, but there are new child abuse or family violence allegations which have not been previously disclosed.
Some new procedural changes with the form include:
The Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk Form must be filed together with an Application for Consent Orders where parenting orders are being sought.
Why is the Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence Form Required?
The Family Law Act 1975 requires that where an interested person in family law proceedings alleges that a child has or is at risk of being abused or there has been family violence or there is a risk of family violence, that the person must file a form with this information and serve it on each party in the proceedings.
Who Will Receive a Copy of the Form?
Various people will receive a copy of a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk Form. This includes:
Each party to the proceedings.
Where there have been allegations of child abuse or family violence, the court will provide a copy of the allegations to the appropriate State or Territory child welfare authority where the child lives or may live in the future.
The person who is alleged to have abused the child or committed family violence if they are not a party to the proceeding.
What Will the Court Do in Response to a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence?
The Family Law Act 1975 requires a court that has been notified of allegations of child abuse under section 67Z or family violence under section 67ZBA to take expeditious action to deal with any allegations and the issues. This will include a court making orders that will provide further information and evidence to the court about child abuse or family violence to allow the court to consider and determine any risks to a child.
The court may issue orders which protect a child or a parent or a person the child spends time with for their personal protection if that child or person is in need of protection. This includes a court order which prevents a person from going to a residence, place of employment, place of education or from doing something or being around someone or contacting someone or following someone.
Courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 have obligations and broad jurisdiction to deal with child abuse or family violence. The new harmonised Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk form, while still duplicitous when making allegations about child abuse and/or family violence, is clearer and allows an interested person to provide better particulars about child abuse or family violence allegations.