On 5 December 2019, the Australian Government introduced legislation to reform the federal family law courts.
Under the legislation, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia will be brought together as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFC). The FCFC will comprise two divisions: the FCFC (Division 1) will be a continuation of the Family Court, and the FCFC (Division 2) will be a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court. As such, the FCFC will preserve the current line of Judges of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, including their extensive family law and family violence expertise.
The explanatory memorandum of the recently passed bill reiterates that the structural reform will establish a single point of entry for federal family law matters, to improve efficiency under a common leadership and Rules of Court, forms and practices and procedures, enhance judicial appointment criteria, and streamline the family law appeals pathway.
The legislation provides that over the first two years of operations the rules of each division of the court will be made by the Chief Justice and the corresponding Chief Judge. And following the initial period, the rules will be determined by all FCFC judges.
The reforms will help Australian families resolve their disputes faster by improving the efficiency of the family law system, reducing the backlog of matters before the family law courts, and driving faster, cheaper and more consistent dispute resolution.
This announcement does not have any immediate effect on matters currently before the courts. Transitional arrangements will be in place for those matters that are before the courts at the time of the commencement of the reforms to minimise any delay or inconvenience to parties.