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The aim of the pre-action procedures is to explore possibilities for resolution and, where a dispute cannot be resolved, to narrow the issues that require a court decision. This should control costs and if possible, resolve disputes quickly, ideally without the need to apply to a court.

The pre-action procedure applies to: • anyone considering starting a case • anyone named as a respondent if a case is started, and • their lawyers (if any).

The Family Law Rules requires prospective parties to genuinely try to resolve their dispute before starting a proceeding in the Court. This is called taking ‘genuine steps’ to resolve the issues in dispute. Except for those situations listed under the heading ‘What applications are exempt?’, all prospective parties must:

read the pre-action procedures

make inquiries about, invite the other parties to and where it is safe to do so, participate in dispute resolution services, such as family counselling, negotiation, conciliation or arbitration

if dispute resolution is unsuccessful, write to the other parties, setting out their claim and exploring options for settlement, and

comply, as far as practicable, with the duty of disclosure by exchanging relevant documents.

Anyone who does not comply (unless exempt) risks serious consequences, including costs penalties.