On 30 May 2018, the Australian Government’s Attorney-General Department announced changes to the existing family law system in Australia.
On 1 January 2019, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia will be amalgamated, (subject to the passage of legislation) and a new court will be established, called the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA). In addition to this a Family Law Appeal Division will be created in the Federal Court of Australia, which will hear appeals from the newly established FCFCA.
Why the change?
The amalgamation of the existing two courts to form the FCFCA is expected to remove the inefficiencies, confusion and delays faced by litigants in the overlapping structures of the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia. It is anticipated that the changes will reduce the additional costs of litigants and mitigate the unequal experiences of families who turn to the family law system to resolve their matters.
It is hoped that the establishment of the FCFCA will bring about greater consistency across Australia (except for Western Australia which has its own Family Court) and will help utilise the experienced judicial officers and resources in order to improve the access to justice for families across Australia. In addition to this it is expected that the changes will make the system more effective, reduce the significant delays currently experienced by litigants but also bring about faster and more cost effective resolutions for Australian families.
A single point of entry
The newly established Court will mean that there is a single point of entry for all family law matters. The Court will be led by one Chief Justice and supported by one Deputy Chief Justice. It is anticipated that the change in leadership structure will enable the Court to function with one common case management process, thereby improving the efficiency and consistency of the handling of family law matters.
The rules governing the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia will remain in place. It is expected that a new consistent set of rules, procedures, forms and directions in relation to the administration and practice of the Court will come into effect after a period of consultation with members of the judiciary, the legal profession and key stakeholders involved in the family law system. For litigants already in the family law system with concerns relating to the progression of their matters, transitional arrangements will be introduced in order to ensure that existing matters are dealt with in the most effective and efficient manner.
Delays in the system
The problems faced by the existing judicial structures are most apparent in major centres like Sydney, Newcastle and Parramatta where it is not uncommon to take three years for a final hearing from the time proceedings are commenced. In addition to this delay, it can take a further 12 months for a judgment to be delivered.
Mediation can be a solution
One of the most effective means of by-passing the existing delay is through the process of mediation. At Tiyce & Lawyers we firmly believe that the process enables parties in a family law dispute to have a useful conversation that often brings about a final result that leaves both parties satisfied without needing to instigate proceedings or which resolve proceedings commenced.
Mediation can be used to deal with parenting and or financial/property matters. At Tiyce & Lawyers we engage appropriately skilled and experienced mediators to facilitate the process together with the guidance of our team to reach an outcome that is essentially controlled by the parties within the framework of the Family Law Act but without the stress, financial pressure and delay arising from entering the existing judicial system.
We can help
If you are currently experiencing difficulties arising from your family situation give our office a call to speak to one of our experienced practitioners to discuss how we can help you resolve your matter.