Major changes are set to occur within the family law system. On 1 September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia will merge into one Court, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“the Court”).
The amalgamation of the two courts has arisen as a consequence of the passing of the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia Bill 2019 on 17 February 2021. The new Court will commence operation pursuant to the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia Act 2021. A new set of a harmonised rules called the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 will be released on 1 September 2021 to combine the former Family Law Rules 2004 and Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001.
The Court will be separated into two divisions. Division One, comprising the old Family Court, will preside over complex matters and appeals. Division Two, comprising the old Federal Circuit Court, will hear the majority of matters, including new proceedings that are issued. The merger means that the Court will, for the first time in 21 years, have a single point of entry, and harmonised rules, forms and case management processes to provide a streamlined approach to family law proceedings.
Much debate, opinion, and controversy have arisen in recent times in respect of the new Court merger. Notably, the Family Court Chief Justice, His Honour William Alstergren, has opined that the chronic and unacceptable delays in the family law system has caused significant stress upon litigants, and this has required and continues to require those within the family law system to deploy serious compassion and put in place all possible measures in order to lessen the stress of people affected by family law disputes. At Swan Family Lawyers, we too are committed to this pursuit.
The goal of the Court is to provide a family law system which focuses on risk, responsiveness and resolution. The Court aims to achieve this goal as follows:
- Improving early risk identification and safety of children and vulnerable parties;
- Encouraging smarter ways to separate with less acrimony, less cost and more dispute resolution, where it is safe to do so;
- Expecting compliance with court orders;
- Enhancing national access to justice for vulnerable parties and regional communities through the use of technology; and
- Resolving up to 90 per cent of cases within 12 months, where possible.
Greater emphasis on encouraging parties to settle disputes and reach early resolution, where possible and where it is safe to do so, prior to instituting proceedings is an important aim for the Court.
A number of other changes are set to be introduced on 1 September 2021, including:
- The establishment of a new National Contravention List to seriously and expeditiously address alleged breaches of court orders.
- Changes to the work undertaken by Child Dispute Services. Child Impact Reports will replace the former Section 11F Reports, Family Consultants will become known as Court Child Experts, and Child Dispute Services will become known as the Court Children’s Service.
- Changes to titles (however not to functions). Senior Registrars will be known as Senior Judicial Registrars, Registrars will be Judicial Registrars and Assistant Registrars will be Deputy Registrars.
- A new streamlined Court website.
Our family lawyers are committed to staying abreast of the current changes to the family law system. We will provide further information once the new harmonised Rules are released after the merger is formally implemented on 1 September 2021.
Please do not hesitate to contact our office on (08) 8227 1970 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions, queries or concerns in relation to the upcoming merger, and how this may affect your family law matter.