Recently, there were some significant changes to family law legislation that have come as a result of the merger between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has been established in the hopes of providing families with a faster and more cost efficient process to resolve their matters. We have prepared a short overview on what has changed, why it was changed, and importantly, how it may impact you. If you are involved in a family law issue, it is very important you speak with your legal representative to understand the direct impacts the new Court system may have on you, or get in touch with us today.
What has changed?
On 1 September 2021 the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia merged to form the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA).
Division 1 of the FCFCOA deals only with complex family law matters and will exercise the appeals jurisdiction, whilst Division 2 deals with general family law matters.
With the merger of the courts, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 were enacted on September 1, 2021.
These rules are a unified set of legal guidelines which explain how court cases progress through the FCFCOA.
Once proceedings are commenced, they will generally follow a nationally consistent case management pathway, which is set out in general terms in the following diagram:
Why was it changed?
Anyone who has been engaged in the family law system will tell you how often there are long and stressful delays.
Criticisms of the family law system have been outlined in many inquiries, reviews and parliamentary reports.
The old court structure and overlapping family law jurisdiction between the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court had significant inefficiencies, confusion, additional costs and unequal experiences for families. This resulted in poor outcomes for some children and families, in particular those affected by family violence. The creation of a single set of harmonised practice rules, extra resources and case management reforms, go towards addressing these issues.
Put simply, it is hoped the FCFCOA provides a safer, quicker and less costly way of resolving disputes.
How it might impact you (with some examples)?
Parties using the FCFCOA can expect a greater emphasis on:
- Measures to improve early risk identification and safety of children and vulnerable parties;
- Measures to resolve matters outside of court or without the need for a trial;
- Compliance with court orders;
- More case management before Registrars (instead of Judges); and
- More access to justice in regional communities using technology.
Perhaps most significantly, the FCFCOA and new Family Law Rules aim to resolve up to 90 per cent of cases within 12 months.
Your Lawyers, whilst using the FCFCOA will, among many things:
- Give you more frequent legal costs updates;
- Help you to fill in and sign court forms to be compliant with the new rules and procedures; and
- If safe to do so, focus strongly on resolving your matter without the need to proceed to court or a trial.
There is also now a National Contravention List to address the expectation that all parties will comply with orders of the Court, and that alleged breaches of court orders will be taken seriously and will be dealt with quickly.
How can we help?
Bennett & Philp Lawyers have a strong focus on settlement and litigation strategy and we ensure our client's matters are carried out to best practice standards, pursuant to the new legislation, procedures and rules, and Divisions of the FCFCOA.
Our experienced and dedicated team of family law litigation practitioners are ready to assist you to achieve an optimal outcome today.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.