In February 2021 Parliament passed the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2019, merging the existing Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia and creating a single point of entry for family law matters called the ‘Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia’ (FCFC). The change will commence on 1 September 2021.
The FCFC will comprise of two divisions:
Division 1 will be the Family Court of Australia, which will include the existing judges of the Family Court of Australia; and
Division 2 will be the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which will include the existing judges of the Federal Circuit Court.
All family law and child support matters will be filed, in the first instance, in Division 2 of the FCFC. Division 1 will hear all appeal matters and complex family law matters. Either the Chief Justice or the Division 2 Court may transfer cases to Division 1 if the matter is complex. There will be a case management approach by Judges and Registrars. Urgent and high-risk matters will be prioritized.
This is a change to the traditional approach where either a legal representative or a party has needed to make a judgment-call on the appropriate Court in which the matter ought to be filed. On occasions where a matter has been commenced in the incorrect court, this has led to delays because the proceedings are required to be transferred.
So what does this mean for you?
The single-entry point into the new FCFC aims to be simpler to use and more efficient.
The aim of the reform is for matters to be dealt with quickly and at a lower cost. The single-entry point will ensure that matters are no longer bounced around between different courts and instead are heard in the appropriate division. This new approach aims to address the issue of significant case-loads within the current court system, which has been causing many years of delay.
There will also be a single set of consistent rules, processes and procedures for family law matters in order to unify the procedures across the FCFC. It is likely there will also be a new set of forms that will be required to be used consistently throughout all family law matters.
If you have an existing matter in the current Family Law Courts, we expect that these will automatically be transferred to the new FCFC and that the new court will implement transitional arrangements.
It is anticipated that the there will be an increase in the number of specialist judges, with the aim that by August 2021 there will be 35 specialist judges in Division 1 and 43 in Division 2.
What do you think about the court merger? We would love to hear your thoughts.
If you have a family law matter that you would like to discuss do not hesitate to contact us.