However before we close the door on 2020 and move onwards and upwards towards a (hopefully) brighter 2021, it is important to take a moment to review your family circumstances and consider whether you may need to file a family law parenting application with the Courts prior to the end of the year. This is especially important if you need to make changes to your parenting arrangements for the rapidly approaching summer holiday period of December 2020 to February 2021, or changes to your children’s childcare, kindergarten or schooling enrolments for the commencement of Term 1, 2021.

The Court deadline for filing parenting applications this year is 4.00pm Friday 13 November 2020, unless the parenting application is urgent or there are considerations of significant risk to a child or children. For example, a risk that one parent will remove a child from the Commonwealth of Australia or a significant risk a child will be placed in danger or be at risk of harm in the care of a parent.

It is important to remember that, other than in urgent parenting applications, it is a legislative requirement that parties must obtain a Section 60I Certificate, otherwise known as a ‘Mediation Certificate’ prior to filing parenting applications. This Certificate is obtained through the Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR) process by attendance upon a qualified Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Keep in mind that it can take a number of days (if not weeks) to arrange an appointment with an FDR practitioner, and you also need to allow time for your former spouse to respond and engage in the process, once commenced.

However, there are some exceptions to the requirement for a Section 60I Certificate, including:

  1. If you and your former spouse are filing for parenting orders by consent;
  2. If your matter is urgent. E.g. your former spouse has indicated they are going to move your child interstate/overseas or if your current parenting arrangements expose your child to risk of harm;
  3. If there has been, or is a risk of family violence to the child by a party;
  4. If there has been, or is a risk of child abuse by a party;
  5. Where a party is unable to effectively participate in FDR. E.g. by way of disability or incapacity; or
  6. If your application relates to an alleged contravention of a previous parenting order that was made within the last 12 months – nothing this exception brings its own complications and can be difficult to effectively pursue.

If you believe you may qualify for one of the Section 60I Certificate exceptions, then you may be able to file parenting proceedings without attending FDR.

The takeaway is that if you believe you may need to file a parenting application this year, the time to act is NOW!

For more information, or if you believe that you may need to file a parenting application prior to 13 November 2020, please contact a member of our family law team on 03 8600 9333 or by email at [email protected].