The 2021 family court merge

Earlier this year in February 2021, Parliament introduced new legislation to merge the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court into what is now the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFC). The new Family Court merge commenced on 1 September 2021.

Under the previous system, all matters commenced in the Federal Circuit Court unless otherwise appropriate to be transferred to the Family Court. However, under the new system, the FCFC will be a single-entry point system. It will have its own set of forms, rules and administrative regulations. The aim of the merger is to operate under a more efficient and effective system, as well as to set harmonised practice directions and family law rules. The single set of rules and forms will be made by the Chief Justice in consultation with the other appointed judges.

The FCFC will have two divisions, Division 1 and Division 2

  • Division 1 will deal exclusively with family law matters (generally more complex cases and appeals); and
  • Division 2 will deal with family law matters, in addition to federal law matters like workplace disputes, bankruptcy, intellectual property and consumer law.

All initiating applications will be filed in the FCFC Division 2 and once filed, the Judges and Registrars will commence case management for all matters. Through this process, they will be able to prioritise urgent matters, discern more complex cases and allocate cases to the most appropriate division and judge.

The legislation, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 requires that both Division 1 and 2 operate under the leadership of a Chief Justice and a Deputy Chief Justice. Division 2 will operate with an additional Deputy Chief Justice. A minimum of 25 judges must be appointed to the FCFC Division 1 inclusive of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice of Division 1. The Chief Justice will not only be responsible for setting the rules and forms for all family law matters but also be able to transfer more complex matters from Division 2 to Division 1.

All appeals will be heard in Division 1 thereby removing the Appeals Division of the Family Court. All judges appointed to Division 1 will be able to hear appeals either as part of a Full Court or as a single judge.

The overarching goal of this reform is to implement better practices and overhaul the overlapping family law jurisdiction of the old court system. The new FCFC hopes to improve efficiency, diminish the backlog of family law matters currently before the courts and limit the backlog from occurring. In doing so, this will provide Australian families with cheaper, quicker, and transformed dispute resolution processes.

We are experienced family law solicitors and can assist you on a wide range of Family Law matters, including property matters, parenting matters, divorce applications, de facto and same sex relationships, mediation / court representation, and much more.

We invite you to contact us on 08 8122 9505 to discuss the options available to you. Our family law team at Phillips Green & Associates offer a free 45 minute consultation and we would love to be able to assist you.

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