The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) has been established by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 (Cth) (FCFCOA Act), bringing together the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. These changes commenced on 1 September 2021.
The Court now comprises two divisions:
- Division 1 (a continuation of the Family Court of Australia) deals with family law matters. Division 1 has 35 specialist family law judges hearing both trials and appeals.
- Division 2 (a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia) deals with family law, migration and general federal law matters. Division 2 has 76 judges; 55 of which are specialists in family law and the remainder experts in various areas of general federal law and migration.
This means that all family law matters will now have a single-entry point to the Court. A change from recent times where parties either filed initiating applications in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court of Australia.
The FCFCOA Act establishes an overarching purpose for the Court, being to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible. Parties and their lawyers are expected to fully comply with this statutory obligation in all cases without exception, regardless of the complexity of the case or the issues in dispute, subject only to ensuring the safety of parties and children. This co-operation requires (and the Court expects) that parties and their lawyers think about the best way to conduct their cases in accordance with the overarching purpose.
New case management pathway for family law matters
A new case management pathway has also been established which aims to ensure that 90 per cent of case are resolved within 12 months of filing. Matters filed in the Court follow a nationally consistent case management pathway, set out in general terms in the below diagram:
Prior to commencing proceedings, parties are required to:
- comply with the pre-action procedures for both parenting and financial matters contained in Schedule 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Cth) (Family Law Rules) and section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act); and
- take genuine steps to attempt to resolve their issues prior to commencing proceedings, unless it is unsafe to do so or a relevant exemption applies.
A Genuine Steps Certificate in the approved form must be filed with an Initiating Application or Response to Initiating Application.
Failure to comply with the relevant pre-action procedures may result in the application being adjourned or stayed until the failure to comply is rectified.
If you find yourself in difficulties with separation at the present time and require legal advice, contact our Family Law team today.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is general and is not intended to be advice on any matter. It is for information only and is not legal advice. In the event of a legal problem, you should seek legal advice.