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Controversial changes in the air – Restructure of Federal Circuit Court and Family Court

In the week that Australia was changing prime ministers, significant changes were being introduced for consideration in relation to the proposed restructure of the Family Court of Australia (FCA) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia(FCCA) –  the courts that resolve family and relationships disputes.

On 23 August 2018 the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2018 and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018 were introduced to the House of Representatives.

The proposed changes are not without their critics.  AG Christian Porter set in motion a controversial exchange between him and some judges of the Family Court when his article ‘Structural reform, not more judges, needed’, was published in The Australian on 3 August 2018.  A response from some judges, titled ‘Fact not Fiction’ was provided to the Family Law Section of the Law Council (FLS) on 16 August 2018 and the AG’s reply addressed the statistical performance of both the FCA and the FCCA.

The FLS has significant concerns about the bills and the lack of consultation with key stakeholders in the family law system.  Further, limited time has been allowed for the consideration of the contents of the bills.  Our Family & Relationship Law Team are members of the national FLS.  We see complex issues for the region that the Newcastle FCA/FCCA registry services, including judicial circuits and are concerned about the impact on judges and their capacity to manage increased workloads.  We hope that there will be adequate time provided for detailed consultation with the community and the profession, and we will keep you informed of progress.

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