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Key takeaways: Specialist Accreditation Conference 2022

On Thursday, 4 August 2022, FamilyProperty attended the Specialist Accreditation Conference 2022, hosted by The Law Society of New South Wales. If you missed the Conference, or would like to refer back to the learnings, we bring you our key takeaways from selected presentations from the day.

FamilyProperty CEO and Legal Founder Fiona Kirkman (an Accredited Specialist in Family Law) presented on Technology for Family Lawyers with an overview of how FamilyProperty empowers family law professionals to prepare, model and document family law outcomes, plus an overview of the practice management software, Smokeball.

Press Play to view Fiona's video presentation

Deputy Chief Justice Robert McClelland AO opened the Family Law Stream with a presentation providing an update from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. Key takeaways from this talk included:

  1. Single point of entry, harmonised rules, and case management processes proving beneficial.

  2. The new Case Management Pathway and Registrar case management and interim hearing work is providing effective support for Judges. This is:

    • Improving clearance rates of final order application for both Courts

    • Decreasing the pending caseload

    • Decreasing the docket size for Division 2 Judge

    • Increasing the final hearings held by Judges

3. There has been a 67% increase in the number of dispute resolution conferences held in parenting matters (compared to last year) with a 55% average settlement rate.

Deputy Chief Justice Robert McClelland

4. Specific lists are working well including:

  • Indigenous Lists, including the budget providing for Indigenous Liaison Officers in every registry;

  • PPP500 List, which is promoting economic security and reducing economic coercion; and

  • National Convention List, which has seen a reduction for matters being finalised from 7-8 months to 2.2 months and only 14% of matters requiring allocation to a Judge.

5. Significant improvements in the Appellate Jurisdiction (Division 1).

The Honourable Colin Forrest SC (former Family Court Judge) spoke on: “The Kennon Case: Is it a bridge too far?” with key takeaways including:

1. 68.4% of property matters including allegations of family violence, highlighting the importance of the Kennon case discussion in property matters, which confirmed there may be a contribution-based adjustment:

...where there is a course of violent conduct by one party towards the other

during the marriage which is demonstrated to have had a significant impact upon that party’s contribution to the marriage, or put the other way, to have made his or her contribution significantly more arduous…”

2. Discussion of the issue of no fault divorce and the failings of a contribution-based approach to domestic violence in Family Court proceedings, including reference to Sarah Middelton’s 2005 article

3. The importance of understanding the pendulum swing of cases post-Kennon including:

  • At the one end Spagnardi [2003] - the need to provide evidence of the incidence and effect of domestic violence to quantify the impact of the domestic violence on their ability to contribute

  • Cases of Maine [2016], Britt [2017] and Keating [2019] which allowed for inferences to be made and disavowed the need for ‘quantification’; and

  • Benson & Drury (2020) which put inferences to bed as well as the need for expert evidence as to impact.

4. Discussed that conduct needs to be repetitive (under current common law - this may change in the future) however it does not necessarily have to be frequent or longstanding - Stevens & Stevens (2005) FLC 93-246.

5. The Full Court in Benson & Drury (2020) states we should “stop calling them Kennon claims” and that we need to look at these extra s.79(4) contributions-based claims holistically alongside other contributions. It is important to take proper instructions about domestic and family violence and whether such conduct has made the contributions of that party more arduous.

Presentation by Judicial Registrar Kimberly Buttriss on: “The different powers of Registrars in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia” with some great practical tips as to using the FCFCOA Rules to your advantage including:

  1. Having a clear understanding of the Judicial Registrar Court Events being First and Second Court Events, Dispute Resolution and Directions for Compliance and Readiness Hearing. Note that Judicial Registrars are focused on the procedural aspects of a proceeding and case management and have a docket system - refer CPD 5.2

  2. Understanding the powers of Senior Judicial Registrar to make interim orders (s.65D of the FLA) - currently 80% of cases are being dealt with by SJRs. It is also important to note that SJR’s cannot make final orders and that Orders that might seem interim but are not include:

  • Medical procedures (including vaccination)

  • Dismissal applications grounded solely from Rice & Asplund

  • Overseas travel

  • Contraventions and variations of final orders (unless by consent)

3. The focus on the Overarching Purpose - Rule 1.04. You can use this to limit the time for oral argument or directions about the use or length of written submissions - refer to Div 2 Rules pursuant to s.188 FCFCOA Act.

4. The importance of compliance with cost provisions for both parties and lawyers under Rule 12 Judicial Registrar Buttriss noted that where the lawyer is the roadblock for the matter progressing then possibly seek an order that the lawyer cannot charge their client for that Court Event.

5. Requirement and consequences of parties and lawyers being required to attend every Court Event - Rule 15.15. Powers of Registrar can include adjournment to proceeding with the matter undefended if the party is absent from Court - Rule 15.19. Judicial Registrar Buttriss also stressed the importance of attending and turning video on to announce appearances of lawyers and parties for online Court Events.

It was great to catch up with some FP subscribers including Cassandra Kalpaxis from Kalpaxis Legal, Edyta Zurawski from O’Loan Family Law and to meet so many family lawyers, including our champagne winner Annette Wilson of Swaab Attorneys.

We'd like to extend a big thank you to The Law Society of New South Wales for putting on such a great event!

Find out more about how FamilyProperty can help you and your firm - book an obligation-free demo with our friendly team.

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