Restructure of the Family Law Court System

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about the problems with the family law court system, especially in relation to the delay experienced by parties.

There are currently two courts responsible for dealing with family law matters – the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

The Attorney-General’s Department estimated that in 2016-17 almost 106,000 family law applications were made to the two Courts. Such a large volume of applications clearly necessitates an efficient system of dealing with matters.

On 30 May 2018 the Australian Government announced its proposal to restructure the family law court system. It is hoped that the restructure will:

  • maximise court resources
  • improve access to justice
  • increase efficiency
  • result in more consistent resolutions

The proposed restructure is currently on schedule to come into effect on in mid-2019 and includes the following proposed changes:

  1. The current Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia be amalgamated into the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).

That there will be two divisions of the FCFCA:?

  1. Division 1 comprised of the existing judges of the Family Court of Australia and dealing only with family law matters; and
  2. Division 2 comprised of the existing judges of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and dealing with both family law matters and general federal law matters.

That the two divisions of the FCFCA remain separate but there be a single point of entry.

  1. The Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia not be retained. Appeals in family law matters would be heard by a new Family Law Appeal Division of the Federal Court of Australia.
  2. That there be a single set of rules and forms for both divisions of the FCFCA.

It is hoped that the structural reforms will allow up to an extra 8,000 cases to be resolved each year. It has been questioned how the structural reforms will achieve this in the absence of extra funding for the family law court system.

For more information, visit the Attorney-General’s Department’s webpage Structural Reform of the Federal Courts.

It seems like change is afoot in the family law jurisdiction.

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