From 1 September 2021 there will be one “Family Court” with a single point of entry for anyone starting Court proceedings about their family law children and property cases. On 1 September 2021 the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“FCFCOA”) commences operation, with a new set of harmonised Family Law Rules to be introduced, along with a suite of 14 new Practice Directions about the operation of the Court. The next few months are likely to be very interesting to say the least, particularly with the new system aiming to resolve all disputes within 12 months of the date the Court case is filed.
All cases filed in the FCFCOA will be commenced in Division 2 of the Court (what was previously the Federal Circuit Court of Australia) with any complex cases or Appeals to be heard in Division 1. A national “Contravention List” will be introduced from 1 September to address the expectation that all parties to Court Orders must comply with those Orders, and that all alleged breaches will be taken seriously and dealt with quickly.
Big changes are also being made to the current Child Dispute Services section of the Court, with Family Consultants changing title to “Court Child Experts” and the service itself becoming known as the “Court Children’s Service”. In place of the current more limited Section 11F Assessment Report currently available early in Court proceedings, a “Child Impact Report” will now be prepared in relevant cases to assist parties in parenting matters to reach agreement wherever possible, and provide expert guidance to the Court for interim hearings.
All forms used by the new FCFCOA are to be updated and will commence operation on 1 September 2021. There will however be a 90 day grace period for the use of the older forms.
A new website will also commence operation on 1 September 2021, being fcfcoa.gov.au, replacing the existing Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia websites.
Three videos will be published on the new website, to assist parties before they commence litigation to consider better ways to separate and encourage the use of dispute resolution. Other videos will give a step by step guide on what to expect when people come to Court.
We will provide further updates about the introduction of the new Court and systems as the information becomes available.