The new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia commence operations on 1 September 2021, following legislation replacing the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.
The new Court will be made up of two divisions:
- Division 1 will be a continuation of the Family Court of Australia and will deal with family law matters only. Division 1 will retain jurisdiction to hear family law appeals from Division 2.
- Division 2 will be a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and will deal with both family law and general federal law matters. Division 2 will be the single point of entry for all family law matters.
OBJECTIVES OF THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT AND FAMILY COURT OF AUSTRALIA
The new Court aims to provide a streamlined approach to family law proceedings with an emphasis on alternative dispute resolution.
SO, WHAT'S NEW? THE 10 CHANGES TO BE AWARE OF
Case management pathway
The new case management pathway will focus on an increased involvement of Senior Registrars, Registrars and Family Consultants so matters may be triaged so the first court date occurs within 8 weeks of filing and dispute resolution occurs within 5 months of filing. For matters which are not resolved at dispute resolution, the Court will aim to list the matter for a trial within 12 months.
The Commonwealth Government has provided more than $100 million in new funding to allow the appointment of new Registrars and Family Consultants.
national contravention list
A new list to deal solely with Contravention Applications will come into effect from 1 September 2021. A contravention is where a party to a proceeding has breached an Order of the Court without a reasonable excuse. Importantly, the new list will provide for a first return date within 14 days as opposed to months.
The Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth) and the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth) will be replaced by a harmonised set of Rules instead of there being 2 sets of rules for 2 Courts. Some changes include:
The new case management pathway has a significant emphasis on dispute resolution and parties are expected to use every opportunity to participate in dispute resolution, whether that be a court-based family dispute resolution conference, conciliation conference, private mediation, arbitration or legal aid conferences.
Changes to Child Dispute Services and Family Consultants
The new Court will introduce a new style of report called a Child Impact Report which is to be prepared, if necessary, at an early stage of the proceedings. The report is to replace the previous s 11F report
Enhanced role of Senior Registrars and Judicial Registrars
In the new Court, Senior Judicial Registrars, Judicial Registrars and Deputy Registrars will all exercise aspects of judicial power.
Specialist court lists
The new Court will introduce specialised court lists. The Lighthouse Project and the PPP500 Small Claims Property Pilot will continue to operate as pilots in the relevant registries.
New Practice Directions
The Court will issue a suite of 14 new practice directions which will be made available and take effect from 1 September 2021.
All appeals will be heard by Division 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. All Division 1 Judges will be able to hear appeals. There will no distinct division of the Division 1 Judges who will hear appeals.