A genuine steps certificate is given to a person who has made “reasonable and genuine attempt” in making arrangements for the care and welfare of a child. This certificate is available for download at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia’s website. This certificate is usually issued in, for instance, cases where one parent is seeking to relocate with his/her child. In these cases, the other parent may oppose the relocation. The family court will usually consider factors in cases like this if:
- Either parent consulted with the other
- Both parents made appropriate arrangements (parenting plans) for the child’s care
- The relocation is in the child’s best interests.
The certificate serves as evidence that the parent has taken reasonable steps to meet their responsibilities to the child. This certificate may also apply to financial matters such as property settlement proceedings where disputed couples have trouble splitting their assets and finances. Read on to know more about a genuine steps certificate.
The Importance of the Child’s Best Interests
Parties involved in family law matters that involve children should adhere to the child’s best interests. In fact, there are provisions in the Family Law Act 1975 that outline the child’s best interests. Section 60CC of this Act contains two primary considerations for the child’s best interests which are their right to have:
- A meaningful relationship with their parents, relatives, and other significant people in their life
- Protection from any forms of family violence, neglect, and/or abuse
The best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in all family law matters in Australia. Section 60B of the Family Law Act formalises this principle. The section states that the court must regard the best interests of the child as the most important consideration in family law proceedings.
The Purpose of a Genuine Steps Certificate
A genuine steps certificate is part of the reformed pre-action procedures. These procedures must be followed prior to parties filing a lawsuit. These pre-action procedures encourage parties to honestly narrow their issues and resolve their disputes before filing a lawsuit. For instance, one party opts to go through mediation or arbitration to resolve their family law or financial matter.
Mediation and arbitration are types of alternative dispute resolution methods that parties use if they don’t want federal circuit court proceedings. These methods are relatively cheaper and are also reliable since the results are legally binding. Mediators and arbitrators are the people responsible for conducting mediation and arbitration sessions. A party is exempt from pre-action procedures if:
- A party alleges a risk of child abuse or family violence (This applies to both property settlement and parenting proceedings);
- The Initiating Application or Response to Initiating Application was deemed urgent;
- The applicant would be unduly harmed if he/she were to follow the pre-action procedures;
- Either party filed a family law application in Court within the last 12 months; or
- The application is about divorce, marriage nullity or validity, child support, or bankruptcy.
Contents of a Genuine Steps Certificate
Typically, the contents of this certificate contain information about the “genuine steps” taken for the family law matter. Let’s use a relocation case as an example for this section. Contents may include:
- A description of the proposed relocation and the reasons for it
- Details of any consultations or negotiations that have taken place with the other parent or any other relevant parties
- Information about the proposed arrangements for the child’s care, including the child’s living arrangements, education, and access to healthcare
- Information about the maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other parent and other significant people in their life after the relocation.
- A statement that the parent or guardian believes the relocation is in the best interests of the child
- Information about any other relevant matters, such as the child’s views and any potential risks to the child’s welfare.
But, what about financial matters? The contents of this certificate regarding financial matters may include a:
- A description of the property or assets in dispute
- A summary of the financial positions of the parties
- Details of any offers or counter-offers made by the parties
- Information about any attempts at negotiation, mediation, or other forms of dispute resolution
- A statement of the parties’ willingness to continue to try to resolve the dispute
- Any other relevant information that the court may need to know in order to make a decision about the financial matter.
Application and Non-compliance
In Australian family law matters, a genuine steps certificate is typically filed as part of the process of applying for a parenting order. Parties will need to complete a form and provide evidence of the steps they have taken to try to resolve their dispute with the parties involved.
Evidence may include letters or emails sent, and records of mediation sessions. Both the applicant and the respondent must file the certificate. However, what happens if one or more parties fail to comply with the certificate’s conditions? The court may:
- Stay (temporarily stop) the application until the conditions of the certificate are met. However, in some cases, parties may be exempt from the pre-action procedures required to obtain a genuine steps certificate.
- Dismiss the case
- Make a costs order against the parties and/or the practitioners
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
Seeking legal advice in Australian family law matters is important for several reasons. A family lawyer can help ensure that the certificate is completed correctly and that all the necessary information is included. They can also help advise on the evidence that should be provided to support the certificate.
Additionally, a legal practitioner can help advise on the legal requirements for filing a genuine steps certificate. This includes the deadlines and any specific and appropriate dispute resolution service they should use. They can also help advise on the overall process of parenting order or financial order applications, including potential outcomes and risks.
Our Family Dispute Resolution Services
JB Solicitors offers mediation and arbitration services to parties who want to settle their legal matters amicably. Our team of family lawyers can explain the importance of complying with the requirements of legal documents in family law matters.
We ensure that our services are fair and legally binding on all parties, especially if there are children involved. Should legal matters arise, we can also represent parties in court.
Contact a family lawyer today if you have questions about legal documents like a genuine steps certificate.