The genuine steps certificate was introduced into Family court proceedings as one of the procedural changes resulting from the Federal Circuit and Family Court merger, which took effect on September 1, 2021.
The FCFCOA emphasised the importance of negotiation and conflict resolution and stressed that parties seeking divorce or settlement should “avail themselves of every opportunity to participate in dispute resolution – whether that be a court-based family dispute resolution conference or conciliation conference, privately funded dispute resolution, mediation or arbitration.”
The certificate essentially certifies that the parties seeking divorce or settlement orders have taken all the necessary steps to resolve the dispute outside of the court.
In this short guide, we discuss when and how a genuine steps certificate should be filed and who is entitled to an exemption from filing it.
What is a genuine steps certificate?
A genuine steps certificate is a document certifying that parties seeking divorce or settlement orders from the court have complied with pre-action procedures.
The pre-action procedures that the certificate confirms typically include the parties involved:
- Sharing necessary documentation as part of disclosure obligations
- Providing written notifications to other parties of their intentions to commence proceedings
- Inviting each other to engage in genuine negotiations
- Enquiring about and agreeing to a suitable dispute resolution service
- Participating in genuine negotiations
The genuine steps certificate is different to the requirement pursuant to section 60i of the Family Law Act 1975, which stipulates that parties seeking parenting orders need to obtain a certificate from a family dispute resolution service/practitioner. A genuine steps certificate will still need to be filed by an applicant seeking court orders on a parenting matter.
When do I file a genuine steps certificate
You will need to file a genuine steps certificate when you commence proceedings in the Family Court or when you are responding to proceedings in the Family Court.
The genuine steps certificate is now a mandatory component for those seeking court orders relating to family and financial matters. A genuine steps certificate has to be filed with parenting and financial settlement initiation applications.
The certificate has to be filed by both the Applicant and Respondent.
How do I file a genuine steps certificate
You can file a genuine steps certificate online through the Comcourts portal, and you will need to download the form for the genuine steps certificate on the Family Court website.
An applicant seeking final or interlocutory orders will need to fill Sections A,B, and D and file with the initiation application.
A respondent seeking final or interlocutory orders will need to fill out sections A,C and D and file it with a Response to Initiation Application.
If a party is already involved in proceedings and wants to seek further interlocutory or procedural orders through an Application in a Proceeding, they will not need to file a genuine steps certificate. They will, however, need to highlight genuine efforts taken to reach a resolution in their affidavit.
Non-compliance and exemptions
When one or all of the parties fail to comply with the conditions of the certificate, the court may stay the application until the conditions of the genuine steps certificate have been met.
However, in certain instances, parties may be exempt from the pre-action procedures that are required in order to obtain a genuine steps certificate. Circumstances that make a party eligible for an exemption will usually involve:
- An urgent case (for example if one party is a flight risk)
- A situation when there is family violence or child abuse
- The applicant being unduly prejudiced by having to file a genuine steps certificate
- One of the parties have already filed a family law application to the court in the last 12 months
Consult a family lawyer
Consulting with a legal practitioner is always a great way to ensure you have support through the sometimes challenging journey through court proceedings. A good family lawyer can elaborate more on how to file an initiation application along with a genuine steps certificate, as well as guide and advise you of the actions you need to take to meet the requirements of a genuine steps certificate.
To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our family lawyers, contact us here.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.