The new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will commence on 1 September 2021.
The new court merges the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.
The merger will result in a greater emphasis being placed on encouraging parties to settle disputes, before Court proceedings are commenced. In cases that do proceed to Court, the new Court Rules aim to provide a resolution of matters as safely and quickly as possible without undue delay.
The new Court will provide for a single-entry point and a single set of rules, forms and case management processes which it is hoped will provide a more streamlined approach for family law proceedings.
The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, has stated:
“The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will provide a completely new family law system which focuses on risk, responsiveness and resolution. 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 … We will have a system where identifying risk and safety at the very beginning of every case is a priority, where parties will be given ongoing opportunities for dispute resolution where it is safe to so, and if cases cannot be resolved, it will be listed for a trial before a judge much earlier than previously experienced”.
The new case management model will increase the involvement of Senior Registrars, Registrars and Family Consultants, early in the process, to undertake the case management of all matters.
As far as possible, duty lists will be conducted by Registrars and interim hearings will be conducted by Senior Registrars to alleviate pressure on Judges and to ensure that they are able to hear and determine trials and deliver judgments in the matters that require judicial attention as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In the general course, matters filed in the new Court will follow a nationally consistent case pathway, which is set out in general terms below:
- First Court Event
- Interim Hearing (if required)
- Dispute Resolution
- Compliance and Readiness Hearing
- Trial Management Hearing (if required)
The First Court event is to take place within 6-8 weeks of filing. It is envisaged that parties will attend mediation or dispute resolution within 5-6 months of filing. If parties are still unable to settle the dispute the matter will proceed to a trial which is expected to occur within 12 months.
These targets aim at resolving up to 90% of cases within 12 months which will be a substantial improvement on the current wait times that parties are currently experiencing.
The merger will result in a new set of rules, forms and case management processes that will need to be followed and as such it is even more important that you have a specialist family lawyer assisting you if you have a family law matter before the Court. If you have any questions regarding the Court merger or any associated family law matter please contact our firm to make an appointment with Matthew Carney an accredited specialist in family law on (02) 4944 3322.