Under the family law regime, attendance at a family dispute resolution meeting is mandatory. Since July last year, no court proceedings can begin without a certificate issued by the family dispute resolution practitioner who facilitated the meeting.
However, where there has been violence in a relationship, the requirement to attempt family dispute resolution before starting proceedings does not apply, as family violence is one of a number of exceptions under the new laws.
A partner who does not wish to mediate because of domestic violence can seek the approval of the court to forego family dispute resolution. This involves an affidavit being sworn, setting out the history of the violence.
Where one or both of the partners in a parenting matter are receiving legal aid, a grant may be provided for an early-intervention conference – a type of dispute resolution procedure – if the matter fulfils the means-and-merit test.
In the event of past violence, a legal-aid conference will only be held where an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) permits, and both parties wish to proceed with the conference. A woman has only to advise her lawyer or the intake/screening officer that she does not wish to be involved in a conference because of domestic violence and the matter does not proceed.
Conferences can also be conducted by phone or as a ‘shuttle’, where someone will shuttle between the parties conveying proposals or offers to avoid direct communication if a party feels intimidated, even if there is no AVO.
A feature of violent relationships can be the loss of control over many aspects of a person’s life, and once they have left the relationship there are aspects of their lives they may need to regain power over, such as parenting, living arrangements, and property. These are things that can be achieved with the help of negotiation.
As a hopeful first step, participation in a negotiation with the help and experience of their solicitor may begin the long process of empowering and restoring confidence to face a future away from a previous intimidating or controlling former partner.
Reproduced with the permission of the Law Society of New South Wales.
For more information or advice concerning Family and Divorce Law, contact the experienced team at Rockliffs Lawyers today.