Some of you may be aware of some significant changes expected to take place in the family law system in early 2019.
Up until now there have been two main courts dealing with family law matters. These are the Family Court of Australia which, deals with more complicated matters, and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which determines the majority of matters.
For some time there have been long delays in having cases determined by the family law courts. This has mainly been caused by insufficient funding and resources to deal with the influx of matters being filed in those courts.
The federal government has been conducting enquiries into how to improve the system and has recently announced that it will be overhauling the court system in this area by abolishing the current courts and combining them into a new court to be called the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
The new court will consist of two divisions. Division 1 will, in effect, carry out the role of the former Family Court of Australia, and Division 2 the work of the former Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Appeals from the new court will no longer be heard by the Full Court of the Family Court but rather a new division will be established in the Federal Court of Australia called the Family Law Appeal Division to hear these appeals.
How far this will go toward solving the problems that have been plaguing the current courts remains to be seen; however, we expect that there will be ongoing reforms in this area for some time to come, and for the procedures of the new court to be focused on dealing with matters faster and more efficiently.
How is this going to affect clients?
Apart from the amalgamation of the courts, there are likely to be new Court Rules and forms to comply with. But there is no need for alarm. If your matter is already in the current court system, as with most new legislation, it is usual for there to be provisions governing the orderly transition from the old system to the new. In fact, the judges of the current courts are likely to remain as judges of the new court within their respective divisions.
If you commence proceedings after the new system comes into effect, then you will need to comply with the new Rules and use the new forms. Having said that, in our experience there is normally a grace period and there is every likelihood that while some new forms may be introduced, the majority will be the same or similar to the present.
As always, if anyone has any queries, please feel free to speak to me about them.
I’d be interested on peoples thoughts on the proposed changes; particularly, whether anyone feels they are likely to make a difference. I would have thought the simplest answer would be to retain the Family Court and simply appoint more judges. This proposed new system, while I hope it works, seems like an overly complicated response.