On 1 September 2021 the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia merged into a single court system now officially known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA).
This merger has brought about several changes for new proceedings. The new Court’s aim is to resolve more than 90 per cent of family law matters within 12 months with a view to reduce the time, cost and stress associated with litigation.
The new system is set to prioritize minimizing the risk and harm to children and vulnerable parties. Parties will also be encouraged to engage in dispute resolution where it is safe to do so. Where cases still need to proceed to litigation, parties will be afforded a modern, transparent, and more efficient system of justice. This has been aimed to get these parties through the process as safely, quickly, and as fairly as possible without any undue delays.
The Court comprises two divisions:
- Division 1 (a continuation of the Family Court of Australia) deals with family law matters. Division 1 has 35 specialist family law judges hearing both trials and appeals.
- Division 2 (a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia) deals with family law, migration and general federal law matters. Division 2 has 76 judges; 55 of which are specialists in family law and the remainder experts in various areas of general federal law and migration.
Case Management Pathways for Family Law
In order to resolve majority of cases within the first 12 months of filing the Court will follow a nationally consistent case management pathway.
Figure 1: From FCFCOA Website
There are now ‘pre-action procedures’ that a party must comply with (unless an exemption applies) before commencing proceedings in the FCFCOA. These pre-action procedures are aimed at resolving the matters outside of Court where possible.
The objectives of these pre-action procedures are to:
- Encourage early and full disclosure through the exchange of information and documents about relevant issues
Changes to Child Related Services
The Child Dispute Services will now take on the new title of Court Children’s Service (CCS). There are significant changes that have been introduced to the work done by the Court’s Social workers and psychologists.
The CCS staff will not only be able to undertake their appointment as family consultant but will also be undertaking duties under their authorization as a family counsellor. Their duties will include assisting registrars with the delivery of confidential dispute resolution events and conducting confidential risk assessment interviews.
The overarching purpose of the CCS will be to assist families and the Court by:
- Helping parents understand the needs of their children after separation
- Identifying risk factors that impact children
- Identifying family strengths and protective factors
- Providing expert evidence through the provision of assessment reports
- Providing information about resources and support services
- Assisting in the resolution of disputes
New Website and Informational Videos
In order to simplify the process for the profession, litigants and the public to source information about family law, migration and general federal law a new website has been designed. The new website, www.fcfcoa.gov.au went live on 1 September 2021.
There are three informational videos that have been professionally created. It is aimed at assisting parties’ pre-litigation, to provide details about the new Court and a step-by-step guide on what parties can expect when they come to court.
How can we help?
At MLM we understand how stressful and daunting Court procedures can be, especially when there are new changes being made to the Courts and its processes. Give us a call on 1800 99 31 32 for more information on how we can help you during your separation and subsequent property or children disputes. We have well experienced lawyers that can help you throughout each stage of your matter.