Family Law in Australia is changing

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A new system of family law is coming to Australia in 2019

The Attorney General, Christian Porter, has announced that the Family Court of Australia (FC) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC) will be merged to create the amalgamated and somewhat cumbersomely named, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).

Currently, family law jurisdiction is shared and overlaps between the FC and the FCC depending on complexity. This arrangement of the family law jurisdiction has long been criticised for creating inefficiencies, confusion, delays, additional costs and unequal experiences for many families.

The merging of the FA and the FCC seeks to redress these issues and one of the significant changes in establishing the FCFCA is the deletion of a considerable portion of the appellate jurisdiction of the current FC. Instead, the Family Law Appeal Division (FLAD) will be established in the Federal Court of Australia to hear appeals from the new FCFCA.

Former Chief Justice of the FC, Diana Bryant, has openly criticised this move and says that current regime of Family Court (Full Court) appeals is the envy of the world. Similarly, the new move means that there won’t be positions for all nine of the existing appeal court judges and some will move to the new FCFCA.

By creating a new single court to resolve family law disputes in the first instance, the Attorney General touts the change as one that will significantly improve access to justice for Australian families. He says it will improve the efficiency of the family law system, reduce the backlog of matters in the family law courts and drive faster, cheaper and more consistent resolution of disputes for Australian families.

Subject to parliament accepting the proposed legislation to enact these changes, the FCFCA and the FLAD will commence operation on 1 January 2019.

For those individuals with proceedings before the courts when the changes are to commence, ‘transitional arrangements’ will be put into place. These arrangements will aim to ensure that these matters are progressed efficiently despite the changes to the structure of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

Whether implementing this new system will be as cumbersome as the Court’s new name, is yet to be seen. Watch this space.

If you have any questions or need advice, speak to one of Dowson Turco’s friendly family lawyers today. Call us on (02) 9519 3088 or email us at

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