Family Law - Courts to Merge
As of 1 September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC) and Family Court of Australia (FCA) will merge to become the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) following the passing of legislation in February 2021 to amalgamate the two Courts.
Previously, it has been commonplace for the majority of family law matters to be handled by the FCC which otherwise divides its time handling matters in other areas of law. In contrast, the FCA has tended to hear more complex cases in the family law space. Under the new structure, the FCFCOA will have two divisions. The current FCA will form Division 1, while the FCC will become Division 2. While Division 1 will exclusively hear complex family law matters, Division 2 will continue to hear family law matters as well as other federal law matters which previously fell within the jurisdiction of the FCC.
The aim of the amalgamation is that parties will be able to seek a judicial determination of family law disputes in a single court and reduce the protracted delays affecting the current family law system.
The change also brings with it a new case management model which aims to increase efficiency. This will include teams of Senior Registrars, Registrars and Family Consultants early in the process to undertake the triage and case management of all matters filed.
The new system will follow a nationally consistent case pathway which aims to have 90% of cases resolved within 12 months:
To enable these changes, $100 million has been allocated by the Commonwealth Government and the number of Judges has increased to 111 including 90 specialist family law Judges over the two divisions. This increase is coupled with the recruitment of highly skilled family law practitioners to facilitate the merge.
While the merger has not been without extensive criticism and concern, the hope is that it will improve outcomes for everyday Australians, reduce delays and prompt efficiencies moving forward. As we endeavour to create a world-class family law system, we hope that this merger lives up to expectations.
If you would like assistance with your family law matter, please contact us on (02) 6772 4899 (Armidale), (02) 6584 1185 (Port Macquarie) or (02) 6559 9800 (Laurieton).