Family Law to move faster – allegedly

The biggest change to the Family Law system since the creation of its current form in 1975 is about to be made. Faster and better outcomes are to be delivered. The Family Court of Australia will be merged with the Federal Circuit Court. A single entry point for all family law matters will be created.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will arrive on 1 January 2019. The new, larger court has been designed to reduce the complexity, delay and cost.

The Attorney-General believes that the new system will deal with an additional 8,000 cases per year. That means that at least 16,000 litigants will have their matters finalised every year. Many more thousands of children will have certainty. This is what we are being told, at least.

Chronic underfunding, failure to replace retiring judges and a lack of legal aid have all but crippled the system. Delays in the Court system have increased over the last 10 years despite the number of applications remaining roughly the same.

The Law Council of Australia will work with the legal profession, the Court and the Australian Government to ensure that the implementation is successful. Interestingly, consultation with the biggest users of the Court system – the legal profession – is to occur after the announcement rather than before the government made and announced the decision.

The Australian Law Reform Commission will soon release draft legislation and further details on how the amalgamation will be carried out.

The Attorney-General has said that, “the sooner matters are resolved and families can put the difficult time of separation, divorce and the end of a relationship behind them, the better for them and particularly the better for the kids.”

We are optimistic. However, we know that interacting with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will be challenging in the first few years of its operation. Forms, rules and procedures will all change. Judges will change. The path for existing matters in the Courts will change.

If you are separating, or planning to separate over the next few years, talk to one of our family lawyers today to make sure that you know how these changes will affect you.

The above is not intended as legal advice. You should obtain legal advice in relation to your own specific circumstances.

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