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Family law courts combine

Information about the plans to merge the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court to provide a seamless process for clients who need to have their matter dealt with after separating.

The Federal Circuit Court and Family Courts will formally combine to form the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia on 1 September 2021. This merger has given the courts to think about possible improvements.

There will be:

  • a greater emphasis on encouraging parties to settle disputes before issuing proceedings at court
  • a dedicated List for contravention of orders (first court event within 14 days of application)
  • Property-only matters will also be separated out into their own list
  • single entry point
  • harmonised rules, forms and case management processes
  • identifying risk and safety at the beginning of every matter remains a priority
  • new case management model where registrars and family consultants will be involved much earlier in the process:
    • duty lists will be will be conducted by registrars
    • interim hearings will be conducted by senior registrars
    • freeing Judges for trials
    • aim to resolve 90 per cent of matters within 12 months.

New rules and practice directions, commence on 1 September 2021. There will also be a new website: fcfcoa.gov.au, due to be launched to coincide with the new court. See Legislation.

There will be a 90-day grace period, where lawyers may use the old forms, Partly completed forms in the Commonwealth Courts Portal have been deleted.

New court has 2 Divisions

Federal Circuit and Family Court Division 1 (FCFC Division1)

This Division is a continuation of the Family Court. It will hear only family law matters.

Federal Circuit and Family Court Division 2 (FCFC Division 2)

This Division is a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court. It will hear both family law matters and other general federal law matters.

Appeals

The appeals division of the Family Court is abolished and all Division 1 judges will be empowered to hear family law appeals, both singly and as members of a Full Court.

Single entry point

Applicants need not worry about which court matters need to be filed in. All matters are filed into Division 2. If appropriate, they will be transferred into Division 1.

Management

Both Divisions are to operate under the leadership of one Chief Justice. The Chief Justice will be supported by a Deputy Chief Justice, who also works in both divisions (that is they hold dual commissions). There will be supporting roles of the Deputy Chief Judge (Family Law) and Deputy Chief Judge (General and Fair Work) who work in Division 2.

For the first 2 years, Rules will be made by the Chief and Deputy Chief Justice alone. After this period, the rules will be made by a majority of judges.

Email contacts

Lawyers are advised to update their references to email addresses for contacting the new Federal Circuit and Family Court. To update, keep any prefixes and change the latter part of the email addresses to ...@fcfcoa.gov.au if they end in:

  • @familycourt.gov.au
  • @federalcircuitcourt.gov.au
  • @familylawcourts.gov.au

There will be an automatic redirect for a short time.

Lawyers may be personally liable

The judges have the power to hold a lawyer liable to bear costs personally if they fail to comply with the overarching purpose of the court procedure which is the duty to facilitate the just resolution of disputes, according to law and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible.

More information

Legislation

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 (Cth)

See Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) 2021 Act (Cth)

See Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) 2021 Act (Cth)(opens in a new window).

New Rules and practice direction

See Legislation.

Reference

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

The court's new website went live on 1 September 2021. This site links to the new forms, publications and practice directions. .

See:

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

For more details see the court's media releases:

Central practice direction

The purpose of this direction is to outline the core principles that apply to family law proceedings and to establish a consistent national case management system. This system will:

  • reduce unnecessry cost and delay in family litigation
  • helps procedings to be conducted with as little acriminal as possible to minimise harm to children and to the parties involved
  • ensures the safety of children and families
  • facilitates the just resolution of disputes according to law as efficiently, quickly and cheaply as possible.

All other directions made are to be viewed through this framework. Parties and their lawyers are expected to think about the best way to conduct their cases in accordance with the overarching purpose.

See FCFCA—Central practice direction—Family law case management(opens in a new window).

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

This new court website launches on 1 September 2021.

Note: This website goes live on 1 September and conten is not accessible until that date.

See Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.(opens in a new window)

Commonwealth Parliamentary Library

This library often prepares comprehensive papers, designed to prepare members of parliament when bills of significance are being debated. The Bill's history, structure and purpose are clearly laid out. This paper discusses the bills that merge the Family and Federal Circuit Courts.

See Parliamentary Library—Bills Digest no. 42 2020-21—Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2019 [and] Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019(opens in a new window).

Updated