Currently, there are two Courts that deal with family law matters in Australia; the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia. Whilst this separation of seemingly similar jurisdictions has been deliberate as a form of case management, many clients, and indeed legal professionals, find it to be inefficient and confusing.
In late May of 2018, the Turnbull Government announced their plans to merge the two courts into one, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. A new Family Law Appeal Division in the Federal Court would also be established to hear appeals of all family law matters coming from the new Court.
The legislation to create the new Court will, according to Attorney-General Christian Porter, be introduced to Parliament during their spring sittings, with the goal of establishing the new Court by January 2019. Whilst passing the legislation and establishing the Court in such a brief time may be doable, the exercise of actually merging these two immensely busy Courts, will be a considerably longer process.
It is still somewhat unclear how the Government intends to merge matters currently being heard by one or the other Court. At this stage, the Attorney-General has announced that the new Court will have two divisions. Division 1 will comprise the existing judges of the Family Court and deal only with family law matters. Division 2 will comprise the existing judges of the Federal Circuit Court and deal with family law matters and general federal law matters. In essence, the intention seems to be to keep the general form and structure of each court whilst amalgamating the two under one set of rules and procedures.
Ultimately, the Government’s goal with this merger is efficiency and reducing emotional and financial stress to those involved in the process. Whilst this is an admirable goal, the process of actually merging two monolithic Courts, their rules and procedures and staff could be an incredibly drawn out, and potentially expensive, method.
For more information regarding the Court process or family law matters in contact our experienced Family Lawyers at Stanley & Co. Lawyers today on (08) 7001 6135.