Steve Irons MP Federal Member for Swan

Coalition Changes to the Family Court

On 1 January 2019, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia will be brought together into an overarching, unified administrative structure to be known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFC).

These structural reforms would create a framework in the FCFC for common leadership, common management and a comprehensive and consistent internal case management approach.

This will, in effect, create a single point of entry and a consistent pathway for Australian families in having their family law disputes dealt with in the federal courts.

A new Family Law Appeal Division will be established in the Federal Court of Australia to hear all appeals from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in family law matters.

The Government’s motivation in making these structural changes is to improve access to justice for Australian families, and to provide greater certainty and consistency within the federal family law system.

These reforms will significantly improve the efficiency of the family law system; reduce the backlog of matters before the family law courts; and drive faster, cheaper and more consistent resolution of disputes for Australian families.

These reforms will complement the Australian Law Reform Commission review of the family law system. Implementation of any recommendations arising from the family law review would be enhanced in impact with a new, more efficient court structure already in place.

Simplifying the Family law System

The reforms will empower the courts to make the necessary administrative changes to help relieve the pressures faced by the courts in dealing with family law matters.

Improving the efficiency of the courts will reduce delays in the family law system and improve the time it takes for families to have their matters dealt with.

This will positively impact on separating couples and their children because delays in the court system only extend the conflict between the parties. The longer a matter takes before the courts, and the more legal costs incurred, the less likely the parties are to have an amicable relationship post-separation which has a significant impact on the wellbeing of any children involved.

Establishing, in effect, a single point of entry and a consistent pathway in family law will achieve quicker dispute resolution, certainty and consistency for Australian families.

Families will know that their disputes will be dealt with by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, enabling information to be readily available about what to expect and when, thereby standardising the experience of litigants, and providing an early sense of the likely cost implications of lodging a family law application upfront.

There are currently two federal courts responsible for managing first instance family law matters – the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

In practice, the Federal Circuit Court finalises over 85 per cent of final order family law matters in the federal court system and 90 per cent of the Federal Circuit Court’s caseload consists of family law matters.

The current court structure and overlapping family law jurisdiction between the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court leads to great inefficiencies, confusion, delays, additional costs and unequal experiences for many families.

This results in poor, and potentially unsafe, outcomes for some children and families.

Additional judicial resources will not improve the underlying inefficiencies in the family court system, which must be a key priority for any Government that is committed to expending taxpayer money as efficiently and effectively as possible.

 

Court Reform Fact Sheet 1

Court Reform Fact Sheet 2

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