What’s happening with the Family Court?

We are fielding lots of questions from clients as a consequence of the media hype around the Family Court closing down and what this means for them.

If you have separated, or are thinking of separating, you are going through enough stress without having to worry about this.

This article will help you understand the new reforms.

On 1 January 2019 a new Court will be established. It will be an amalgamation of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. So the Court will still exist it will just be one court instead of two.  While there is media coverage about removing lawyers from the system (and you may all think that’s a fantastic idea) that is not part of the plan at this stage.  You are still encouraged to take legal advice about your rights and entitlements and to be represented both throughout negotiations and in the new Court.

Family law practitioners have long advocated for the implementation of a single, specialised court with a single set of rules and forms.

In summary the changes are as follows:

The positive changes:

  1. The establishment of a single court will create one entry point and therefore consistency which will improve access to justice;
  2. There will be improved efficiency through a common case management process;
  3. By, in essence, removing a substantial part of the appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court, there will be more judges available to hear matters in the first instance which should mean that the waiting time for matters to be dealt with is reduced.

The not so positive changes:

  1. There was no real prior consultation with the family law sector concerning the proposed changes to the court system. The complex needs of family law litigants need to be handled in a specialist manner by Judges with a significant background and expertise in family law. There has been no commitment by the Government to ensure that all newly appointed Judges have family law and family violence expertise.

Even with these proposed changes being implemented, family law cases which are in Court can take 3 years or more from start to finish.  We imagine it will take some time, even after the new Court is established for there to be a significant improvement in these delays.     No-one wants to be in limbo for that long.

At Reid Family Lawyers, our aim is to settle your matter out of Court by way of negotiation or alternative dispute resolution. While Court is sometimes unavoidable, we will make every effort to resolve your matter in a timely and cost effective way.  If you’ve got any questions about the changes to the system, feel free to give us a call.