Last year, legislation was passed merging the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia to make the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCoA).
The changes took place today (1 September 2021) and brings drastic changes to the way litigation is conducted with a particular focus on improving the process of family law litigation in Australia.
The amalgamation of these Courts is set to meet a number of goals including:
- A focus on education which means a greater emphasis on settlement prior to proceedings being issued and if parties to proceed with litigation, that they are well aware of the implications for their families and costs of the proceedings;
- Place greater emphasis on Court orders and compliance with timetables set by the Court;
- Provide parties with ongoing dispute resolution as required and otherwise list the matter before a judge without extensive delays. This is particularly important in light of the increasing rate of domestic violence in communities and to ensure vulnerable parties such as children are protected at early stages in disputes;
- Greater uniformity in family law rules and practice directions for different areas of the Court including a single website to also be launched on 1 September 2021.
Overall, the Courts’ focus will be to create a more simplified and efficient process for litigants including to cut wait times for families waiting for decisions.
It is yet to be seen whether the FCFCoA will live up to the goals it has set out to achieve and it is difficult to provide a timeframe when the success of this initiative can be measured. Both practitioners and litigants will be required to adjust and navigate through a new system and consider the new requirements and expectations of the FCFCoA.
We are optimistic, however, on the goals the FCFCoA has set to achieve, and we hope that this will be a new platform through which we can see positive outcomes for families and vulnerable groups.