Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Australian government “welcomed” a recommendation from the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee (the Committee) Thursday to create a single family court structure for the country.
The Committee conducted a 12-month inquiry on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2019 and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019. In the Committee’s 58-page report on its inquiry, it recommended that the Senate pass the two bills. Senators from the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens wrote dissenting reports.
The two bills were introduced into the Senate to “to fix the broken structure of the family court system”. If passed, they would see Australia’s bifurcated family court system, currently the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia, merged into a single family court structure. The single court, proposed as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, would have two divisions primarily presided over by a single Chief Justice. “Division 1 would be considered a superior court of record and a court of law and equity,” the Committee’s report noted. “Division 2 would be a court of record and a court of law and equity.” Matters in the first instance would be filed in Division 2 and “transferred to Division 1 as appropriate,” the report added.
“Each court will be preserved within that new, single structure, while creating simpler pathways and processes for families using the court system,” a media release from the Attorney-General’s Department said. “The merger will also help to significantly reduce delays and backlogs, with independent analysis showing up to 8,000 additional cases could be resolved each year as a result of efficiencies delivered through the restructure.”
According to Attorney-General Christian Porter, the government will prioritise the two bills within Parliament’s upcoming sitting in a fortnight.