If you’re a couple that wants to dissolve your marriage or needs court intervention, you can’t just ‘pop into court’ to get it done. There are some things that need to be done and processes that need to be followed first. These ‘things’ are called ‘pre-action procedures’. And they are designed to ensure that the court’s resources are focused where they are needed most.

In order to move your case along, the family Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Family Court) needs to make sure that you’ve met your pre-action procedure requirements. That’s where a Genuine Steps Certificate comes into play.

What are Genuine Steps Certificates?

Genuine Steps Certificates were introduced into family court proceedings when the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia merged into a single Family Court on 1 September 2021. The merged Family Court has stated that it has a focus on negotiation and conflict resolution. It stresses that parties seeking court intervention should first try to take advantage of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration. Again, this is to ensure that the resources of the Court are used where they’re most needed.

This focus has led to the use of Genuine Steps Certificates. When you’re seeking parenting or property orders, you will use these certificates to certify to the court that you’ve taken all the necessary steps (or pre-action procedures) to resolve your dispute outside of court. 

So, what are these steps?

Pre-action procedures

These steps – or pre-action procedures – generally include:

  1. Providing written notice to the other party that you’re commencing proceedings
  2. Meeting your disclosure obligations to the other party
  3. Finding a suitable dispute resolution service
  4. Inviting the other party to negotiate
  5. Participating in genuine negotiations

Taking these steps helps to meet the Family Court’s focus on negotiation, arbitration and mediation.

When to use a genuine steps certificate?

Whenever you commence proceedings in Family Court, or respond to proceedings that have been brought in Family Court, you’ll need to use a Genuine Steps Certificate. This is a mandatory component of the process. And it will need to be filed by both the person filing, and the person responding (so both halves of the relevant couple). 

Exemptions from the mandatory Genuine Steps Certificate requirement 

Of course, there are situations where you might be exempt from filing a Genuine Steps Certificate. These exemptions are usually given when there is an urgent need. Some examples might be if one party might leave the jurisdiction, or if there is the possibility of family violence or abuse. But you could also be eligible for an exemption if you might be prejudiced by filing, or if you or your ex-partner have already filed a family law application in the last 12 months.


If you don’t qualify for an exemption, then you’ll need to file a Genuine Steps Certificate. If you don’t file, or you don’t genuinely meet the conditions of that certificate, then you might find your application stayed (or put on hold) until you have. 

Getting expert family law help

Getting help during a challenging time (such as during a separation) can be the support you need during a stressful time. Our expert family law team is here to help you understand what you need to do each step of the way (including filing Genuine Steps Certificates and meeting your requirements under them). And we’re here to ensure you get the best outcome for you and your family. 

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