Is the Family Court Doomed?

According to a recent announcement by Attorney-General Christian Porter, the Family Court of Australia will be merged with the Federal Circuit to form the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).   This sweeping change will result in the two Courts being administered out of one Court rather than the two completely separate systems that now exist.

Currently, the Family Court hears cases involving complex financial arrangements, trusts, serious parenting arguments, allegations of child abuse in custody arrangements and protracted family disputes.

The Federal Circuit Court deals with everything else.

Appeals from the newly formed FCFCA would also be heard by the Federal Court under the new arrangements.

Leach Legal’s Managing Director, Catherine Leach, was interviewed on 6pr recently to discuss the implementation of the proposed change.

She is particularly concerned that all the Judges in the new Court have Family Law experience and she commented:

“The Family Court is a specialised jurisdiction, people who sit in the Family Court have lots of knowledge in many different areas. They need to know not just Family Law, but commercial law; they need to know about Psychology and Children’s development – so many areas of expertise.”

Legal groups are supportive of the Family Court merging with the Federal Circuit Court. Mr Porter announced before those findings were delivered:

“It was a matter of such obviousness that the present structure was not working and was causing inefficiencies and duplications and delays that we considered that we could make the structural change,” he said.

Appeals from the newly formed court, to be known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA), would also be heard by the Federal Court under the new arrangements.

With thousands of matters awaiting judgement in the Family Court, and most cases taking almost a year and a half to reach trial, Catherine is concerned the impact the delays will have on people experiencing relationship breakdowns.

The Family Court of Western Australia already operates as a combined Court with a central administration and will remain unaffected by the changes.

Listen to the full interview here.

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