Emphasis on non-court dispute resolution increasing with FPR amendments

29 April 2024 marked the final stage of the introduction of amendments to the Family Law Procedure Rules (FPR) – placing significant and increasing emphasis on resolving private family disputes without going through the Courts.

The Family Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2023 came partially into effect on 8 April 2024, with the final regulatory changes making non-court dispute resolution the go-to for many families.

What changes have been made?

Promoting the use of non-court dispute resolution procedures, new FPR amendments expand the definition of the term to include “methods of resolving a dispute other than through the court process” including but not limited to “mediation, arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party.”

The removal of the ‘agreement’ clause supports this move even further.

Under previous legislation, Courts were allowed to adjourn cases when all parties agreed to pursue non-court dispute resolution.

In accordance with FPR 3.4 (1A), Courts are now able to adjourn cases without this agreement in place when timetabling allows sufficient time for non-court dispute resolution to encourage parties to pursue it.

Parties will now also be required to consider non-court dispute resolution throughout proceedings, not only before initiating a case. Those who aren’t willing to may have to give their reasoning before the Courts.

What does this mean for families?

Some families may be concerned about a growing emphasis on not relying on the Courts to resolve disputes due to a perception that new rules have the potential to be exploited by harmful individuals.

However, the FPR remains committed to providing formal legal support to families which require it, particularly if one party may be endangered by not doing so.

The latest FPR amendments also widen the definition of domestic violence to include ‘domestic abuse’, recognising the role that non-physical abuse such as controlling behaviour or financial abuse plays in family law cases.

Families with a genuine need to go through the Courts will not be harmed by these amendments and those that do not will be offered increased access to a more productive, faster and less distressing way of resolving family law disputes.

For guidance on FPR regulations and resolving family law disputes, please contact a member of our expert team to discuss your needs.

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