On 30 May 2018 the Government announced its proposal for the restructure of the Federal Courts
which have jurisdiction to hear Family Law matters.
Over the past 5 years the median time from the date proceedings are issued until they reach the trial
stage has increased from 10.8 to 15.2 months in the Federal Circuit Court and from 11.5 months to 17
months in the Family Court. The Government hopes that the proposed restructure will improve the
efficiency of the Federal Family Court system however this remains to be seen.
On 1 January 2019 a new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA) will be established
through the amalgamation of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.
The FCFCA will be divided into two divisions. Division one will comprise the existing judges of the Family
Court and division two will comprise the existing judges of the Federal Circuit Court. Division one will
deal only with family law matters while division two will deal with both family law and general federal
The FCFCA will have a single federal point of entry of all Australian family law matters following which
each case will be allocated to the relevant judges and division of the FCFCA.
There will be one Chief Justice and one Deputy Chief Justice of the FCFCA. The FCFCA will operate under
one common case management process as distinct from the two separate processes that currently
operate in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.
In addition, a new family law appeal division (FLAD) in the Federal Court of Australia will be established
to hear all appeals in family law matters from the FCFCA. This aspect of the proposal is of concern as it
means that appeals about family law matters will not be heard by specialist family law judges.
The Government anticipates introducing legislation in the spring Parliamentary sittings and it is expected
that the FCFCA and the VLAD will commence operation on 1 January 2019. Transitional arrangements
will be put in place for proceedings before the Courts at the time of the commencement of the reforms.
We will publish further details about the new reforms as they come to light, including any amendments
that may be made in relation to the proposal. Please contact one of our experienced family lawyers if
you wish to discuss the reforms with us.