The new Court will is divided into two divisions: Division 1 (what was previously known as the Family Court) and Division 2 (what was previously known as the Federal Circuit Court).
The new Court is designed with a single point of entry (via Division 2) and harmonised rules, forms and case management processes. The overarching purpose of the civil practice and procedure of the Court is to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law, as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible. The overarching purpose includes the following objectives:
- the just determination of all proceedings before the Court;
- the efficient use of the judicial and administrative resources available for the purposes of the Court;
- the efficient disposal of the Court’s overall caseload;
- the disposal of all proceedings in a timely manner;
- the resolution of disputes at a cost that is proportionate to the importance and complexity of the matters in dispute.
Under the new system, matters will now follow a consistent case pathway:
- The first Court event will be a Directions Hearing before a Judicial Registrar. This will occur between one and two months from filing the application with the Court. The first Court event provides the parties with an opportunity to confine the issues in dispute, to ascertain if any orders can be made by consent, and for the Court to make procedural orders about the future conduct of the proceeding.
- In the event a dispute exists about interim arrangements, the Court will list the matter for an Interim Hearing. Where practicable and in circumstances where it does not cause undue delay, an Interim Hearing will be listed for a date after receipt of any expert reports, subpoenaed documents and responses from child protection agencies which are likely to assist with the determination of the interlocutory issues in dispute.
- Within five to six months of filing, the parties will be required to participate in Dispute Resolution (unless exceptional circumstances exist). Dispute Resolution may take the form of Mediation, Family Dispute Resolution, Arbitration, a Conciliation Conference or a Judicial Settlement Conference.
- In the event the matter does not resolve following the parties’ engagement in Dispute Resolution, the matter will be referred to a Compliance and Readiness Hearing before a Judge or Senior Judicial Registrar. The purpose of this hearing is to evaluate if the matter is ready to proceed to Trial, and if so, what procedural orders are to be made for the filing of documents in anticipation of the hearing.
- Wherever possible, matters will be listed for Final Hearing on a date earlier than 12 months from the commencement of the proceedings.
Following the introduction of the new Court, harmonised forms have been introduced to allow for consistency between the two Divisions. There will be a ninety day grace period for old forms, after which only the new forms will be accepted for filing.
There is a suite of other changes that have been introduced in the new Court, such as changes to the way appeals are conducted, how applications for contravention of orders will be dealt (including the introduction of the new National Contravention List), a change in the name of Registrar’s titles, and changes to the Child Dispute Services division of the Court.
Pearce Webster Dugdales will continue to keep abreast of the changes as they come to hand.
If you would like to discuss your Family Law matters, including how the new changes may impact the progression of your case through the new Court, please contact us to arrange an obligation-free call with one of our Lawyers.