Before 1 September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia were two separate courts dealing with Family Law matters. The two courts had long delays from time of issuing a case to the final hearing. There was sometimes a confusing distinction between the courts which meant matters could be transferred between them if it wasn’t suited to the court it was first listed in.
As of 1 September 2021, the two courts have merged making the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. The merge has a focus on reducing unnecessary cost and delay in family law litigation which seeks to minimize the impact on the parties to the relationship and the children. The merger has focused on parties attempting to negotiate and resolve disputes themselves as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Read more details here about the family law court changes.
Changes To Property or Parenting Matters
But what if your property or parenting matter is already underway in court. Do these changes affect you?
If you are already in court, it is likely you have taken some steps to resolve the matter, such as negotiation and dispute resolution. If you are required to prepare more court documents for the court, you will need to comply with the new versions of the documents. It is important to continue to attempt to negotiate to resolve the matter to reduce any impacts on the parties and children.
If you are in the process of negotiation and attempting resolution of your matter or preparing court documents which have not yet been filed, it is likely you will need to comply with the new rules, unless it would be burdensome and unfair to the parties. For example, if you have reached an agreement and prepared a consent order and the application, it would be unfair, costly and timely to both parties to re-start the documents in the new form. This may result in unnecessary legal costs. In this case, the court may allow an exemption for not complying with the new forms. However, it is important to seek clarification from the court that the exemption will apply.
If you are just starting negotiation or recently separated and starting the family law process, these changes will apply to you. You should engage in meaningful negotiating and attempt to resolve the dispute without going to court. You must take genuine steps to negotiate and comply with all of the pre-action procedure before going to court if required.
Court can be a lengthy, timely and exhausting process for parties. The focus of the merger to encourage parties to negotiate and settle their matter is a great outcome for all. It seeks to reduces the personal stress and cost of litigation. It is also great news for those who have been experiencing long delays in their family law matters.