Today, the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia will merge into one Court, to be known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA).
For decades, people have been calling for change to the Family Law system as it is seen as an adversarial, drawn-out, and costly process for parties trying to resolve their matters.
After receiving more than $100 million in funding from the Commonwealth Government, the new Court is intended to remedy these concerns with its main purpose being to facilitate the just resolution of disputes as quickly and inexpensively as possible. A ‘just resolution’ focuses on the dispute resolution process, where parties are encouraged to reach an amicable, fair agreement amongst themselves without intervention from the Court.
Currently, pre-action procedures are required to be undertaken by the parties to attempt to resolve their matter before commencing proceedings. With the merger, these pre-action procedures are being enhanced to ensure that the parties are making all possible attempts to settle before proceedings are issued. If parties cannot settle and go on to file proceedings, dispute resolution will continue to be a main focal point so matters can settle safely and fairly without undue delay.
Importantly, the new Court will address the increasing rate of family violence by assessing vulnerable parties as early as possible and provide them with appropriate priority case management.
Property only matters will be given individual case management to be dealt with more efficiently.
Parties should understand that there will be a strong emphasis on the compliance of Court Orders and alleged breaches will be taken seriously. Contravention Applications will be heard swiftly with the Court imposing penalties or sanctions for non-compliance.
Many people will be pleased with the new Court’s single point of entry, and combined rules and forms, which intend to simplify case management. Thankfully, there will be a 90 day grace period where old forms may be accepted by the Court while legal practitioners and parties get used to the new system.
What does it mean for matters already listed in the Court?
Some existing matters will be transferred to the new pathway, and all listings will remain as they are unless otherwise advised.
The Court convened Winter Callovers that dealt with the 7000 current cases across the nation which identified, narrowed and even resolved some of the matters in dispute.
If you have a concern about a Family Law matter or any new processes involved in the Court merger, please get in touch with one of our experienced family lawyers who will be able to assist.