The Federal Government has recently passed legislation to merge the Family Court of Australia (“FCOA”) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (“FCC”) to create the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“FCFCOA”).
The new FCFCOA will officially commence operations on 1 September 2021.
To facilitate these changes the Commonwealth Government has provided more than $100 million in new funding, which has enabled the Court to increase the number of highly skilled Registrars and Judges.
The architecture of the merger begs the question; Will the FCFCOA be a smarter, quicker and more cost-effective way for litigants to separate without the expenses and stressors of protracted family law litigation?
What is the aim of the merger?
The FCFCOA aims to:
- provide a single point of entry for family law matters;
- provide a quick and fair litigation process without undue delays;
- encourage parties to settle their disputes, where it is safe to do so, before proceedings are commenced;
- provide opportunities for parties to settle their dispute, where it is safe to do so, during the course of proceedings
- provide a more modern, collaborative and transparent system of justice;
- improve case management to reduce undue delays;
- provide a set of harmonized rules and forms;
- improve the court’s Child Dispute Services; and
- efficiently deal with Applications regarding breach of Orders and impose appropriate penalties or sanctions where the breach has been proved and the breaching party has failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse.
Pre-Action Dispute Resolution
Parties will be required to participate in dispute resolution prior to filing property or parenting proceedings in the FCFCOA, in circumstances where it is safe to do so.
In the event dispute resolution is unsuccessful, parties will be required to provide evidence of participation in the dispute resolution prior to filing in the court.
Matters filed in the FCFCOA will follow a nationally consistent case process. This process will proceed in the following manner:-
- Step 1 – The first court event is to take place within 6 to 8 weeks from the date of filing.
- Step 2 – The matter will be listed for an Interim Hearing (if required).
- Step 3 – The matter will be referred to dispute resolution within 5 to 6 months from the date of filing.
- Step 4 – If parties are unable to settle the dispute, the matter will be listed for a Final Hearing within 12 months from the date of filing.
- Step 5 – The matter will come before the Court prior to the Final Hearing for a Compliance and Readiness Hearing and, if required, a Trial Management Hearing.
The above process aims to resolve up to 90% of cases within 12 months from the date of filing.
If you have any questions about the merger of the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia or would like to know how this may impact your family law dispute, please contact us on (02) 9929 8840.