On 1 September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia merged to form the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). The FCFCOA will be comprised of two divisions. Division 1, which is most like the former Family Court of Australia, and Division 2, which is most like the former Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Division 1 is made up of 25 specialist family law judges hearing both trials and appeals. Division 2 is made up of 55 specialist family law judges and 20 judges who specialise in other areas of federal law such as migration.
What to expect from the FCFCOA
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia provides a new structure that is innovative, fair and efficient and focuses on risk, responsiveness and resolution, by:
- improving early risk identification and safety of children and vulnerable parties
- encouraging smarter ways to separate with less acrimony, less cost and more dispute resolution, where it is safe to do so
- expecting compliance with court orders
- enhancing national access to justice for vulnerable parties and regional communities through the use of technology, and
- aiming to resolving up to 90% of cases within 12 months. There will always be cases which, because of their complexity, cannot resolve in 12 months. Some of those cases will take time and the court will continue to utilise its supervisory functions to assist parties through these challenging times.
The legislative changes have enabled the court to undertake major structural changes which feature:
- a single point of entry for all family law matters
- a new case management pathway
- specialist lists
- harmonised family law rules
- new family law practice directions
- focus on dispute resolution and an increase in internal dispute resolution in parenting and financial matters
- enhanced and effective child expert reporting process
- an informative and modernised website
- appellate jurisdiction exercised in Division 1 through a Full Court model rather than an Appeal Division.
New case management pathway
Generally, cases will follow the below case management pathway.