The merged Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit of Australia will officially commence operations on 1 September 2021 and will be called the “Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia” (FCFCA).
Matters filed in the new FCFCA will follow a nationally consistent case pathway, which is set out in general terms in the following diagram:
The first court event is to take place within 6–8 weeks of filing. Parties should be at mediation or dispute resolution within 5–6 months of filing before they have spent too much money on costs and have become too entrenched in the system. If they are still unable to settle they will be sent to trial which is to commence where possible within 12 months. These steps are aimed at resolving up to 90% of cases within 12 months which will be a substantial improvement.
There will also be a significant focus on compliance with court orders, demonstrated by the establishment of a new National Compliance List which will also commence on 1 September 2021.
A Media Release of the Family Court of Australia released on 30 July 2021 said that:
“There will be a greater emphasis on encouraging parties to settle their disputes, where it is safe to do so, before proceedings are issued and ensuring that, if they do issue, they are aware of the ramifications for them and their families. For those cases that do need to proceed to litigation, the new Court will provide a modern, transparent and more efficient system of justice which is aimed at getting these parties through the process as safely, quickly and fairly as possible without undue delay. It is also aimed at dealing with the increasing rate of family violence in our community by ensuring risks to vulnerable parties and children at high risk are identified at the very earliest stage in the litigation and treated appropriately.
The new Court will for the first time in 21 years, have a single point of entry and harmonised rules, forms and case management processes to provide a streamlined approach to family law proceedings. It will simplify procedures and enable cases to be moved through the family law system quickly and fairly and with as little detrimental impact on families and children as possible.
Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Hon Will Alstergren said that for decades, people in the legal profession, and the wider community, have been calling for change and commenting that the ‘system’ wasn’t working.”
Source: Family Court of Australia, Countdown to the commencement of the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, [media release], 30 July 2021.