What Do You Need To Know About The Recent Changes In Family Court System?


Photo Courtesy: Charlie Harris collected from Unsplash


On 1 September 2021, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia has merged to become the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). This new court system is created to increase the efficiency of the Family Court in Australia. It has promised to create a much needed new court system that will be innovative, fair and efficient in dealing with family law matters. The new system is designed to focus on risk, responsiveness and resolution. It is created with the aim to

  • resolve 90 per cent of the cases within 12 months,

  • improve early risk identification,

  • improve access to justice for vulnerable parties,

  • encourage more innovative alternative dispute resolution to reduce the costs to the parties.

If you are planning to file a new family law case, or if you already have a pending matter before the previous family court, your matter will follow the new case management pathway. In this article, I will give you a comprehensive idea of what you can expect in the new family law regime.



1. How the Family Law cases will be managed under the new system?


Under the new family law court system, the case management pathway is designed to move cases through very quickly and fairly. It is also focused on protecting the families and the children involved while the proceedings are due.


The new system is designed to identify risks at the beginning of each case. It also will give the parties as many opportunities as possible to resolve the disputes safely through the alternative dispute resolution system. Trials will also be fast-tracked.


The new system will involve more Senior Registrars, Registrars, and Family Consultants in the early stages of the conflict to reduce the pressure on the Judges. It is also going to ensure that the judges can hear and determine trials and deliver judgments as quickly and efficiently as possible.


The new regime case management timeline should look like the following:

  • When you file a family law case, the first court event will happen within 6 to 8 weeks of the filing.

  • You can expect to be at mediation or dispute resolution within 6 months of the filing.

  • If the trial is necessary, it should commence within 12 months of filing with the hope to reduce up to 90 per cent of cases within the system.

  • All decisions regarding matters under the old court system have moved into this new case management pathway on 1 September 2021. Those will stay as listed unless the parties have advised otherwise.



2. What should I need to know about the compliance of family court orders under the new regime?


Under the new law, the Federal Circuit and Family Court (FCFCOA) have introduced the National Contravention List on 1 September 2021. The list is created to deal with the alleged breaches of court orders. It aims to efficiently deal with such applications for breaches in a timely, cost-effective and safe way for all litigants. The list takes the following measures to ensure compliance:

  • All applications will have the first return date within 14 days of filing to ensure compliance with the court orders by the parties.

  • If you or any other party to a court order has proved to commit a contravention, the court will impose appropriate penalties or sanctions. You will receive such penalties if you fail to show a reasonable excuse for such non-compliance of orders.

  • The new court will also refer those matters to dispute resolution wherever possible to resolve the matter without further litigation.



3. What happens to the Child Dispute Services and Family Consultants under the new court system?


The new system has also introduced changes to the Child Dispute Services called the Child Impact Report. The Child Impact Report is designed to be more comprehensive than the Child Dispute Services. It is replacing the section 11F assessment process.


The Child Impact Report aims to help the parties to reach an agreement where possible. It also guides the court for interim hearings.


In cases the trial is unavoidable, the previous family report model will remain available. But it will have more options under the new regime. The new system allows reports concerning specific issues and addendum reports to build on the original Child Impact Report.


Under the new court system, the Family Consultant is now called Court Child Expert. Child Dispute Services is called the Court Children’s Service.



4. Is there any change to the Appeal processes under the new system?


FCFCOA has introduced new Appeal processes on 1 September 2021. It has removed the separate Appeal division. The FCFCOA division 1 will hear the family court appeals from now on. Division 1 Judges will also hear the appeals as a single judge or as part of the Full Court. There is a new national appeal filing registry. It is enabling the creation of a centralised and consistent method for filing an appeal for entire Australia. Therefore, the new system is introducing easier processes to navigate the family court appeal faster and smoother to help the parties.



If you need more information about the new family court system or you need help to find a Family Law Specialist Lawyer, please visit us at www.lawcircuit.com.au or call us at 0418631798 or email us at bonhi@lawcircuit.com.au

We are here to make your legal journey easier. We will connect you to the best legal services in Melbourne, Victoria.


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