Existing Court Structure
At present there are 2 Courts that deal with family law disputes:
1. The Family Court; and
2. The Federal Circuit Court.
Currently, The Federal Circuit Court is where Family Law issues are largely handled unless they are deemed ‘complex’ whereby they will be heard in the Family Court.
This existing court structure has caused inadequacies, significant delays and extra expenses for many families. For example, under the current regime, some property cases can take 3 years to determine.
In the past five years, the number of family law matters awaiting resolution have grown from 17,000 to 21,000.
The average time taken for cases to be resolved in both courts has increased from 10.8 months to 15.2 months in the Federal Circuit Court, and from 11.5 months to 17 months in the Family Court.
What do delays mean for clients in Family Law matters?
If families have to wait a long time for a resolution this can exacerbate the trauma of family break ups. This is particularly so where there are children involved.
When family law proceedings are drawn out, often legal costs increase for families.
The Family Court of Australia will amalgamate with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in early 2019.
The new court will be called the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA) and will have a single point of entry for all federal family law matters. As there will only be one court this will result in just one set of rules, procedures and practices.
The amalgamation is expected to improve efficiency in the family law system.
It is intended that this amalgamation will resolve inefficiencies in the existing court structure and advance access to justice for Australian families in a more timely manner.
What this means
It is hoped that this merger of two courts into one will help the Court support families in resolving their cases quickly, allowing them to get onto rebuilding their lives.
This article was written by Louise Green.