In the last week, you may have seen the Family Court of Australia emerge in the news. On the 17th of February 2021, Parliament passed the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2019, allowing a merger of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court into the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFC). So, what exactly does this mean?
The merger of the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court effectively means that there will be a single point of entry into Federal Family Law matters. The aim of the Bill is to alleviate the backlog of family law cases by streamlining administrative procedures, resulting in faster and cheaper resolution of cases.
However, there are concerns that the family law system will suffer because of the merge. The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction over a range of areas including family, migration, and copyright law. Therefore, there are fears that judges who are not specialised or experienced in Family Law will be deciding Family Law disputes. Furthermore, the urgency of other matters, such as those concerning immigration, may be prioritised over family law matters. Therefore, streamlining Family Law cases poses the risks of competition for limited resources with other areas of law.
However, the merger also provides for two Divisions within the FCFC. Division 1 is a family law specialist division which will retain specialist family law judges. The legislation also provides for an appeals court. Furthermore, prior to the merger, 90% of the Federal Circuit Courts workload was in the area of Family Law. Therefore, the effects on the Family Law system may not be as drastic as feared as the Federal Circuit Court was already heavily versed in Family Law matters, and there remains the required specialisation when needed through the provided divisions.
As this legislation has only just come into effect, it will be a waiting game to see its true effects on the Family Law system. To ensure your matter is guided into the best venue for resolution, contact one of our specialist Family Lawyers today.