By Lloyd Skinner

Following the recent passage of the court merger legislation creating the combined Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA), officially commencement is set to occur on 1 September 2021. We want to explore the procedural changes that affect clients and legal staff and analyse how the court intends to redress protracted delays and large costs inherent to the current judicial system.

We have previously explored the implications for the court merger on individuals involved in the family court system, particularly the consequences for responding to the blight of family violence. That article can be found here.

Most notably, the new system has a single point of entry and simplifies procedures, rules, case management and forms that aims to create a more efficient family law system.

The new streamlined and nationally consistent system is aimed to resolve approximately 90% of matters within their first 12 months. If achieved, this would be a significant melioration on family law litigation known for its long wait times, high costs, and entrenchment within the system.

There will be an increased role of senior registrars (officials responsible for maintaining official records and registers) early in the process to screen cases, prioritising those of significant risk.

Matters will be given continual opportunity for dispute resolution (such as through mediation and property agreements) when safe to do so. If the matter cannot be resolve outside of court, it will be litigated before a judge earlier than has previously occurred, according to Chief Justice of the FCFCA, The Hon Wil Alstergren.

The new court will have an increased emphasis on compliance with court-sanctioned orders, which occurs through the establishment of the National Compliance List.

Additionally, on 2 August 2021, the courts will conduct a call-over where 7000 cases nationally will be assessed. This aims to resolve matters that have become entrenched in the system.

Importantly, the federal government has provided $100 million to the court to fund the recruitment of new staff. Moreover, the court will have larger numbers of judges; a total of 111, 90 of which are family law specialists. These both aim to expedite the resolution of matters in family law litigation

The family court merger remains a contentious topic, particularly concerning its impact on family violence. Even so, whether the reformed family law system will improve the experience of individuals undergoing a difficult and stressful time in their lives remains to be seen.

If you require assistance in a family or criminal law matter, contact our specialist family lawyers now for no obligation 15-minute consultation on (03) 9995 9155.

Bibliography

Family Court of Australia (2021, July 30). Media Release. Countdown to the commencement of the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/re ports-and-publications/media-releases/2021/mr300721