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Norman Waterhouse

Dawn of a New Era for Australian Family Law

Brief History Snapshot of the Federal Family Law Courts

1976 – A specialist federal court is created to deal with matrimonial law issues, known as the Family Court; merging social science and legal interests to deal with the complexity of matrimonial affairs.

2000 – The Federal Magistrate Court (officially renamed Federal Circuit Court in 2013) is created to ease the workload and reduce the backlog of the Family Court and other Federal Courts by being a quicker and cheaper alternative for non-complex family law matters.

1 September 2021 – The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court merge to create a hybrid court, known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“FCFCA”).

What was the issue with the previous two-court system?

For the last 20+ years separated spouses have been subject to a two-court system operating on two distinct sets of court rules. Whilst efforts were made to improve the operations of both courts over these 20+ years, key areas of contention and concern remained within the family law jurisdiction, namely: lengthy proceedings, parties failing to comply with orders, and significant costs being incurred by litigants.

How is the FCFCA Different?

The FCFCA operates as a single point of entry for family law matters and consists of two divisions:

  1. Division 1 – deals with complex matters and appeals; and
  2. Division 2 – deals with non-complex matters.

The overarching purpose of the FCFCA is to deliver just outcomes as quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently as possible. To achieve this purpose, the FCFCA has adopted unified rules, procedures, practices, and forms for family law proceedings in Australia, which serve to:

  • ensure that both lawyers and parties comply with the pre-action procedures, court rules, and orders of the court;
  • narrow the issues in dispute between the parties; and
  • place a reinvigorated emphasis on the use of alternative dispute resolution services, such as mediation.

The overall effect of the unified court system should be that parties experience less delays and fewer costs. It is otherwise intended that the harm caused by litigation to children and families will be minimised.

If you require assistance in relation to any family law enquiry, please contact Christopher Mason on +61 8 8210 1231 or or Danny Marr on +61 8 8217 1332 on

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