A McKenzie Friend (MF) is someone who assists an unrepresented person in court. They can be a lawyer, but they are not a substitute for a lawyer. So lawyer or not, when acting as a MF they may not address the court; they can take notes, organise papers, whisper quietly to and generally assist the litigant. McKenzie v McKenzie (1970) 3 W.L.R 472 was a family law case and MFs are more common in family and guardianship matters, but they may be permitted in any court where an unrepresented person needs assistance to ensure fairness. However, some MFs are overbearing do-gooders, or bush lawyers, who cause disruption and delay rather than actually assist and will not be permitted to remain. In guardianship hearings where there is no right of representation, a lawyer can act as a MF.
Detailed Letters of Advice for Binding Child Support Agreements have been added to the Children publication in Family Law with one for the “payee” and one for the “payer”. The letters explain Child Support Assessments and the meaning and effect of Binding Child Support Agreements on the client’s rights. Each letter also lists the particular advantages and disadvantages of Binding Child Support Agreements for the “payee” and the “payer”. The “payee” letter explains the advantage of registering the agreement where there are non-periodic payments.
Locate these letters on the Children matter plan in Settling it Early in the Child Support folder.
New commentary on parenting orders in relation to grandparents has been added to the Children publication … Grandparents are entitled to apply for parenting orders pursuant to s 65C, which provides: A parenting order in relation to a child may be applied for by … (ba) a grandparent of the child; or … Whilst grandparents specifically have standing to make an application under the Family Law Act, it does not automatically mean orders will be granted. As with any parenting order, the court will always consider an application by the grandparents through the prism of what is in the best interests of the child: s 60CC.
Also, a new draft order has been added to the library of Children Orders: “Spending time with grandparents”.
The Costs Agreements for the Family Law publications – Property Settlement, Children, Financial Agreements and Divorce – have all been updated for each State and Territory to include the amended Itemised Scale of Costs that takes effect on 1 January 2018.
New Federal Circuit Court practice direction for the management of family law interim proceedings commences 1 January 2018.
The Reference Manual – 101 Family Law Answers is the first of the By Lawyers reference manuals to be updated to the new stylish format.
As well as the new format, two commentaries have been added in the Enforcement chapter.
Court enforcement of a child support debt: A child support debt, a debt occasioned due to non payment of a registered maintenance liability, is a debt to the Commonwealth, as opposed to the payer, and is recoverable by action taken by the Child Support Registrar: s 113; or by the payee: s 113A. …
Property orders – Enforcement and the overseas factor: Unlike parenting orders, the Family Law Act, Rules or Regulation make no provision for the registration of property orders in overseas jurisdictions, or the registration and enforcement of overseas property orders in Australia. Furthermore, Australia is not party to any international conventions which provide for the reciprocal recognition of property orders overseas. …
Commentary has been added to the Children and Property Settlement publications regarding the Harman undertaking:
Information obtained on discovery, subpoena or included within an affidavit cannot be used for a collateral or ulterior purpose unrelated to the proceedings in which that production occurs. This is called an implied or ‘Harman’ undertaking after Harman v Secretary of State for the Home Department  1 AC 280. It is a substantive legal obligation owed to the party who produces the documents and to the court: Hearne v Street  HCA 36 (6 August 2008) at -.
The Children’s commentary has been enhanced by adding further information regarding the binding nature of Binding Child Support Agreements and the discretion the Court may exercise to set an agreement aside. The Full Court of the Family Court decision in Masters & Cheyne  FamCAFC 255 (2 December 2016) looks at what changes may be sufficient to enliven the Court’s discretion, and they are extremely limited. The Court’s view is that binding agreements are meant to be binding and possible changes in parental arrangements should be considered before executing the agreement.
The changes to the Itemised Scale of Costs in the Family Law Rules apply from 1 January 2018.