New Zealand Law Society - Australia radically alters Family Law Court system

Australia radically alters Family Law Court system

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The Law Council of Australia is cautiously welcoming a shake-up of both the Family and Federal Circuit Courts which the Canberra Government says will increase the number of cases cleared by about 8,000 a year.

Australia’s Attorney-General has announced the two courts would be amalgamated to form a single Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).

The FCFCA will come into effect on 1 January 2019, creating a single entry-point for all federal family law matters with two divisions.

Division one will comprise the existing judges of the Family Court of Australia and deal only with family law matters, while division two will comprise the existing judges of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and deal with family law matters and general federal law matters.

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

The Law Council says it is awaiting the release of the draft legislation and further details around how the amalgamation will be carried out. However, its President Morry Bailes said constitutionally valid reforms, which are properly considered and based on evidence, and genuinely improve access to justice for Australian families by reducing waiting times and increasing efficiency of the family law system, would be welcome.

“We have known for some time that the court system is in crisis, ultimately costing Australian families who have been denied access to justice,” Mr Bailes said.

“Waiting times of up to three years in the Family Court to finalise cases which involve disputes around children and property and allegations of family violence is unacceptable.

“The long wait serves only to add undue stress to what is already an incredibly painful and difficult time for the families involved.”

The Law Council will consult with the profession regarding the proposal and work with the Australian Government throughout the implementation of the reforms.

The Law Council says it will continue to participate in the ongoing Australian Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Family Law System, with a submission recently lodged addressing the ALRC’s Review of the Family Law System - Issues Paper (IP 48).