On 1 September 2021 the two Courts known as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia will be amalgamated to form one single Court. The new Court will be known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) and will be comprised of two separate divisions with one single point of entry.
The Chief Justice of the Family Court, William Alstergren calls this merger the most significant structural change in Family Court’s history since the commencement of the Family Law Act nearly 50 years ago. The new Court will see harmonised rules and procedures and introduce specific practice directions for discrete areas and application types. Significantly, the FCFCOA has been given additional resources including an extensive recruitment process which will see the hiring of ten additional Judges.
The purpose and overarching framework of this new Court system is to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law and as quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently as possible. The FCFCOA’s goal is to achieve a world-leading best practice family law system that is national, modernised, smarter, and responsive and to create a system that responds to the increasing prevalence and complexity of risks to children and vulnerable parties. The Court will put a strong focus on safe, early, and effective dispute resolution in both parenting and financial matters, access to justice for litigants in regional and rural locations and effective use of technology.
The Chief Justice says the FCFCOA will have a greater emphasis on compliance meaning contravention and breaching of Court Orders will be dealt with efficiently and appropriately. The FCFCOA will focus heavily on alternative dispute resolution and put in additional measures that ensures that parties only commence proceedings after they have complied with pre-action procedures.
Although it may take some time, the Chief Justice noted that the use of a new case management pathway will mean that litigants will have their matter listed for a final hearing within 12 months from the date of initiating court proceedings. The FCFCOA and its new framework will have positive implications for litigants, including parties spending less time in the Court system and being able to finalise their family law matters in a timely manner.
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