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How the new Family Court structure will affect you

In February of 2021, Parliament passed the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Arrangements) Act 2021 which essentially proposed to merge the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court into a single unified Court. The official merger took place on the 1st of September 2021. The new family court is called the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. This article provides an update on how these reforms will impact you.

Navigating the Family Law system can be challenging at the best of times. It is essential, if you are experiencing family law issues, that you seek advice from an experienced family lawyer to assist you in navigating these challenges as the Family Law system undergoes significant change.

What has changed?

The new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia consists of two divisions:

  • Division 1: only deals with complex Family Law matters and appeals; and
  • Division 2: is the single entry point for all other Family Law matters. 

The reforms have also resulted in a change to the rules of the family courts. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 also came into effect on the 1st of September 2021. One of the important features of these reforms is the establishment of a national uniform case management pathway which operates to make proceedings less complex and prioritise alternative methods of dispute resolution. From the 1st of September 2021, family matters will be dealt with in the following manner:

The new Family Law Rules retain the need for parties to fulfil the important pre-action procedures. This means that you should not start a court case until you have engaged in dispute resolution, exchanged documents and made a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute.  Signed Certificates must now be filed with the Court prior to starting a Court case which was not a requirement previously. It is best to seek legal advice from an expert family lawyer early to ensure your interests are well represented and protected.

Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution has been placed at the forefront of the new family law pathway to ensure just and equitable outcomes are achieved for parties in an efficient and cost effective manner. It is an expectation of the court that both parties and their legal representatives make every effort to participate in dispute resolution. There are a number of different types of dispute resolution including mediation, negotiation and conciliation.

Under the new case management pathway, dispute resolution must occur within the first few months after starting a court case (unless it is unsafe to do so due to concerns around family violence).

What the changes hope to achieve

The overarching purpose of the changes to the family law system is to ensure that the resolution of family disputes is achieved as quickly, cost effectively and efficiently as possible.

The 2021 changes to the family court are hoped to resolve up to 90% of disputes within a 12 month timeframe by:

  1. Improving risk identification and the safety of vulnerable parties;
  2. Encouraging alternative methods of dispute resolution which are less burdensome on the parties;
  3. Improving compliance with court orders; and
  4. Enhancing access to justice for those from remote or vulnerable communities through the use of technology.

How Orbell Family Lawyers can help?

Understanding and navigating the Family Law system can be confusing and emotionally exhausting. Our team of expert family lawyers can help you with your parenting or Family Law concerns. If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced solicitors.

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