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For those that do not routinely practice in Family Law, tomorrow marks the first day of operation of the new Court known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, which replaces the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia. The new Court commences with a new Act, harmonised rules and Forms, Central Practice Direction and new website operational as of 1 September 2021.

The amalgamation of the two Courts creates a single-entry point for all family law disputes, as well as a significant shift in focus by the Court on early identification of issues, active case-management of matters from the outset, and on the efficient, cost-effective and prompt resolution of all family law disputes. The case-management trajectory for a matter filed in the new Court, is for resolution of all matters within 12 months of commencement.

In the lead-up to the merger, the Court has published updates to the profession, summarising the anticipated changes. In the last two weeks, the newly-approved harmonised Rules and Central Practice Direction that will apply to all matters filed in the Court after 1 September 2021 were released. Under the new rules, some discretion remains for application of the Family Law Rules, for matters commenced prior to 1 September 2021, in certain circumstances. Links to the Practice Direction, and the final update to the profession, appear below.

In a recent information webinar presentation to the profession, the Court’s Chief Justice, the Honourable William Alstergren, is quoted in other sources describing the new regime that the amalgamation will bring into existence, as delivering “a system that Australian families finally deserve”.

Key features of the new regime that the Court introduces include specialist lists, early screening for identification of vulnerable parties, pre-filing requirements for engagement in dispute resolution, and adoption by the Court of nationalised approach to allocation of judicial resources using digital technologies. Additionally, a significant shift will be increased focus by the Court on compliance with Orders, and clearly articulated consequences – including costs consequences against litigants and solicitors – for failure to comply.

For further information, please see the following resources:

Update to the Profession

Central Practice Direction

Further Information and contact details

Pigott Stinson regularly advises and acts for clients on a range of family law matters. If you would like any further information, please contact our Family Law partner, Celia Oosterhoff.

This Newsletter is produced by Pigott Stinson. It is intended to provide general information only. The contents of this Newsletter do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought from us in respect of the matters set out in this Newsletter. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation