The family court is changing

By August 26, 2021Blog

Big changes are coming to the family court next week. The hope is that these changes will improve the courts efficiency and effectiveness so that family law matters are resolved sooner and more simply.

What is changing?

Currently family law proceedings can be issued in one of two courts – the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia. The changes will see these two courts merge to create the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

The new court will have 111 Judges, including 90 specialist family law judges. This will be the largest number of Judges overseeing family law matters since 2007.

When will the change happen?

The new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will open on 1 September 2021.

Why are these changes being made?

At the moment each court has its own processes and rules which often lead to long delays and mean many people wait two or three years just to get a trial date. Trials often drag on for months and months, while the parties wait for a judgement.

The hope is that the new unified structure, with more judges, one set of rules and one entry point, will result in matters being resolved sooner and more cost-effectively.

I’m already in the court system, how will this affect me?

You don’t need to worry – the changes won’t have any immediate impact on your current proceedings. However, you should talk to your lawyer about any longer term impact on your proceedings.

I’m yet to issue proceedings, what will the changes mean for me?  

The hope is that the new system will allow your matter to progress much faster and as a result mean that your legal costs are lower.

All matters filed in the new Court will follow a new pathway that aims to resolve up to 90% of matters within 12 months.

Once you file your documents, your first court event will take place within 6-8 weeks. You should then enter into mediation or dispute resolution within 5 to 6 months of filing. If you are unable to resolve your matter through mediation or dispute resolution, the court will aim for your trial to commence within 12 months.

What change is Lakey Family Law most excited to see?

Currently, one of the biggest frustrations for us and our clients is when orders are deliberately breached. The National Contravention List is a new addition that aims to speed up the process and ensure parties comply with orders. It will allow breaches to be dealt with quickly and it is anticipated that applications for breaches will be given a court return date within 14 days.

Will these changes help achieve better outcomes for children?

Hopefully. Currently, if you find yourself before the court with a parenting matter, the court may order a Family Consultant to write a S11F report that briefly sets out the issues relating to your matter. Under the new system, the court will instead prepare a Child Impact Report. The Child Impact Report will be far more comprehensive than the old  S11F report with the aim of helping you to resolve all parenting matters more efficiently.

Where can I find more information?

fcfcoa.gov.au will be the official website of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and will be accessible from 1 September 2021. This new website will contain more information about the court, including videos and a step-by-step guide on what you can expect when you come to court.

Need advice on what these changes could mean for you?

Our experienced team are here to help – simply contact us.