What Does This Merger Mean?
Earlier this week the Government Bill that will see the Family Court of Australia merge with the Federal Circuit Court was passed through the Senate. Attorney-General Christian Porter has greeted the change, stating that it will resolve family disputes faster, simpler and for less money. However, 155 stakeholders, including13 retired judges, have opposed the merger, voicing concern over the extra burden it will impose on the already challenged Federal Circuit Court.
The merger means that the two Courts will have a single-entry point, operate under a uniform set of Rules, be governed by the same administration, and have the same Appeals pathway.
For South Australians, the merger will apparently see our State receive greater resources for its Courts and legal services, following negotiations by South Australian crossbench senator Rex Patrick in exchange for his deciding vote.
Despite this, many community legal services continue to voice their concern and predict that they will struggle with the change. They fear that the merger will disproportionately affect minorities and those most at risk, such as those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, refugees, minorities and women and children who are subject to domestic violence. Further, the Government is yet to comment on whether these services will be provided with extra funding to assist with the influx of people who will inevitably seek help on the back of this change.
Despite the Bill having passed, it will not have any immediate effect on the Court system or matters currently before the Courts. The Government is doing what it can to put transitional arrangements in place, in an attempt to minimise delay and inconvenience to matters currently before these Courts and so a slow roll-out of changes is expected.
If you are worried how these changes may affect you, or if you have any family law issues and are seeking advice, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced family law team by following this link, or calling our office on (08) 8410 9294.