Changes in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

On the 1st September 2021, the former Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia merged to create the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). The overarching purpose of the new amalgamated family Court system is to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible. The Court has indicated that with this merger, it aims to resolve 90% of matters within 12 months of filing.

Southern Waters Legal is looking forward to working in this new and improved family law system. As part of the court merger, the FCFCOA is piloting some new programs and initiatives outlined below:

The Lighthouse Project

The Lighthouse project assesses the level of risk of each matter filed in specific registries when applications are filed seeking parenting Orders only. This program and early triage system plays a central role in the Court’s response to cases that may involve family violence and focuses on the protection of vulnerable parties and children in family law proceedings. Using this pilot, Court will allocate resources and apply urgency to relevant matters depending upon the outcome of triage conducted on the matter. This pilot is so important in helping families that have experienced family violence or other safety concerns when navigating the family law system.

The two divisions of the court

The newly amalgamated FCFCOA is comprised of two divisions. Division one deals with family law matters exclusively and has 35 specialist family law judges hearing both trials and appeals. Division 2 deals with family law, as well as migration and general federal law matters and has 76 judges, 55 of which are specialists in family law. These specialist family law judges, together with highly skilled registrars, are responsible for the progression and ultimately the finalisation of all matters filed in the FCFCOA.

National Contravention List

With the merger of the Court came the creation of the National Contravention List. When Orders are made by the Court and one party decides to not comply with such Orders, for example by not allowing the other party to spend time with their Children pursuant to the Orders, or perhaps not paying the other party a sum of money for their property settlement in accordance with Orders, this is called a contravention of the Orders.

The purpose of this newly formed Contravention list is to ensure that all parties comply with the Court and in the event that a party does not comply, that any alleged breaches of Orders are taken seriously, and dealt with in a quick, safe, and cost-effective manner. This is a really important initiative as it can be really frustrating to engage with the family law system and ultimately obtain Court Orders, to only have the other party completely disregard the Orders. This Contravention List will ultimately assist in keeping parties accountable in adhering to Orders made by the Court.

PPP500 List

Whilst not a recent change in the newly amalgamated FCFCOA, it is still worth noting the PPP500 List. On 1 March 2020, the former Federal Circuit Court of Australia commenced a pilot specialised list for “small claim” property cases, called the PPP500 list. This list deals with property matters only in which the net pool of assets is $500,000 or less and doesn’t involve any entities such as companies, trusts, and the like. The purpose of this list is to achieve a just and efficient resolution of PPP500 matters as quickly as possible and at a cost to the parties that is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances of the case given the modest size of the asset pool.

This is a great initiative because it provides an avenue for those matters which are a little more simplistic to attempt to resolve their matter as quickly as possible in circumstances where the net asset pool is modest and therefore, the parties do not wish to expend significant legal fees trying to resolve the issues in dispute.

If you have any questions around the Court merger or the changes to any of the above programs, please feel free to contact our family law team.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided as general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and it should not be used or relied on as legal or professional advice.