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The following has been extracted and summarized from the Family Law Rules 2004. This information is provided as a guide for readers to understand the general intent of the Rules. You are strongly advised to seek formal advice from an experienced family law solicitor before commencing any family court process or action.

General expectations by the Court

Each prospective party to a case in the Family Court of Australia is required to make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute before starting a case by:

  1. participating in primary dispute resolution, such as negotiation, conciliation, mediation, arbitration and counselling;
  2. exchanging a notice of intention to claim and exploring options for settlement by correspondence; and
  3. complying, as far as practicable, with the duty of disclosure.

Unless there are good reasons for not doing so, all parties are expected to have followed these pre-action procedures before filing an application to start a case. There may be serious consequences, including costs penalties, for non-compliance with these requirements.

The circumstances in which the court may accept that it was not possible or appropriate for a party to follow the pre-action procedures include urgent cases, or cases where family violence are involved, or where there are allegations of fraud.

What the Pre Action procedure hopes to achieve

The main objectives of the Pre Action procedures will be met by:

  • Improved communication between the parties prior to any court action;
  • A better, more complete exchange of information;
  • Earlier investigation by respondents and;
  • Improved and wider opportunities for settlement.

Why are there Pre-Action Procedures?

The objective of Pre-Action Procedures is:

  1. to encourage early and full disclosure in appropriate cases by the exchange of information and documents about the prospective case;
  2. to provide parties with a process to help them avoid legal action by reaching a settlement of the dispute before starting a case;
  3. to provide parties with a procedure to resolve the case quickly and limit costs;
  4. to help the efficient management of the case. And to help to reduce the duration and cost of the case; and
  5. to encourage parties, if a case becomes necessary, to seek only those orders that are reasonably achievable on the evidence.

At all stages during the pre-action negotiations the parties must have regard to the need to protect and safeguard the interests of any child and the continuing relationship between a parent and a child.


If you would like more information on this legal topic, or you wish to obtain formal advice regarding your situation, contact Ward Keller Lawyers. They are located at Level 7 Northern Territory House, 22 Mitchell Street Darwin NT 0800 or call them on (08) 8981 2971.

Ward Keller is the Northern Territory's oldest, and one of its largest, legal practices. Because of its history, size and skilled resource base, Ward Keller practices in most areas of the law. The firm is broadly divided into two main areas, Commercial and Litigation. While Ward Keller acts for a number of significant government departments as a result of the privatization of government legal work, Ward Keller remains a firm focused predominantly on the private sector. In Commercial Ward Keller retains a particular strength in mining and resources, infrastructure projects, land access and development, business advice, finance and estates. In Litigation Ward Keller continually acts in commercial litigation, insurance, industrial relations, work health, personal injuries and medical negligence. Ward Keller and its employees maintain a commitment to service on the basis that proper service results in the creation of long standing relationships to the mutual benefit of all parties in achieving their goals in an increasingly competitive environment. Ward Keller's commitment to service is founded upon quality legal work combined with timely and efficient dealings with its clients.

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