What are the obligations of legal practitioners Family Law Act (1975)? According to the Act, legal practitioners such as lawyers, barristers, solicitors, judges and others have certain obligations towards people when dealing with a family law case or matter. These obligations are outlined in Sections 12A to 12G of the Family Law Act (1975).
Sections 12A to 12G fall under Part IIIA of the Act. Under Part IIIA, there are 3 divisions that deal with the introduction of the part, kinds of information that people must know about, and whose obligation it is to provide that information.
The Sections under Part IIIA specifically outline legal practitioners’ obligations in regard to informing people about non-court based services and about court’s services and processes.
But, what are non-court based services? Primarily these include services like family counselling, family dispute resolution, (FDRS) and arbitration. To read about family dispute resolution services, click here. You can also read more about family counselling as defined under Section 10B here.
Section 12A: Objects of this Part
Section 12A provides the objects of the part on the obligations of legal practitioners in Family Law Act. This Section states that the objective in providing information about non-court based services includes ensuring that:
- married couples considering separation/divorce know about the services available to help with a possible reconciliation, wherein a reconciliation between the couple seems a reasonable possibility.
- people affected by divorce/separation know about services that can help them adjust with their separation/divorce, and adjust with Orders made under the FLA
- they know about alternative ways of dispute resolution, other than applying for court orders
Section 12B: Information about non-court based services and court’s services and processes
This section outlines the kinds of information that the documents regarding non-court based services must contain. The following points summarises the kinds of information that should be included:
- the legal and possible social effects of the proposed proceedings (especially for children involved in the family law matter as their welfare and care can be significantly affected)
- information about services that family counsellors and and family dispute practitioners provide to help people affected by divorce or separation
- information about steps involved in the family law proceedings
- the role of family consultants, and
- information about arbitration services for disputes parties to reach settlements in matters related to divorce and separation
Section 12C: Information on Reconciliation
This Section is focused on reconciliation related services available to parties to a marriage. What does reconciliation mean within family law? The term reconciliation means parties who were previously separated or divorced have reconciled, i.e. resumed their marriage or de facto relationship.
Section 12D: Information about Part VII Proceedings
Part VII of the Act deals with information about proceedings related to children. Therefore, this Section outlines the information that is to be provided during family law proceedings that deal with matters related to children.
It states that without any limitations the information must include all relevant details about family counselling services that are available to assist the parties, and the child or children concerned, to be able to adjust to any consequences of orders under Part VII.
The following Sections, i.e. Sections 12E, F and G under Division 3 of this Part are more extensive than the Sections mentioned above under this Part. This is because it outlines the obligations of the legal practitioners.
Section 12E: Obligations of Legal Practitioners
This Section states that when parties consult any legal practitioner for family law advice, the legal practitioner has the responsibility to give parties documents containing information regarding non-court based services. The information they provide includes points mentioned under 12B of the Act.
Additionally, a legal practitioner providing advice to a married person who is:
- Amid legal proceedings for divorce order in relation to marriage, or
- Amid legal proceedings for financial or children-related (Part VII) matters
Must give the person all information about reconciliation services as mentioned under 12C of the Act. Similarly, the practitioner must give parties all documents containing information prescribed under 12D i.e. about Part VII proceedings.
It is important to note that legal practitioners do not have to comply with these obligations if they believe that the parties already contain documents with the information. Moreover, the practitioners do not have to provide information about reconciliation to parties if they believe there are no reasonable chances of reconciliation between the two parties to a marriage.
Section 12F: Obligations on Principal Executive Officers of Courts
The Principle Executive Officer of the Court must ensure that any person who is considering instituting proceedings under this Act, has the information given under 12B (about non-court based family law services), 12C (reconciliation) and 12D (about Part VII proceedings).
Moreover, they also have the responsibility to ensure that, if a person involved in proceedings asks for information from a member of court or officer for details on family counselling or FDRS, they receive the documents containing all the information.
Section 12G: Obligations on Family Counsellors, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners and Arbitrators
If a family counsellor, FDRS practitioner or arbitrator is dealing with persons in divorce proceedings or financial or children-related proceedings, they must:
- Give the parties information mentioned under Section 12C i.e. regarding reconciliation
However, these practitioners need not comply with these obligations if:
- They have reasonable grounds to believe that someone has already given the parties the documents and relevant information, or
- They think there is no reasonable possibility of a reconciliation between the two parties to a marriage
Seeking Advice on Legal Matters
Many parties make use of non-court based services and settle their legal disputes in a timely and efficient manner. In our team of family lawyers, we have award-winning mediators and arbitrators who have helped parties reach amicable conclusions countless times.
At JB Solicitors, we offer fixed-fee prices for many of our legal services. For more information on other subjects under family law, you can check out our blog page here. Do not hesitate to reach out to our friendly ream of solicitors in case of any enquiries.
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