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Added 29 February, 2012, 11:26 PM
Author: Secretary SPCA  

The Family Court restructure legislation will be reintroduced into federal parliament in the autumn sittings of parliament which runs from 7 February to 22 March 2012.

The Access to Justice (Family Court restructure) Bill implements reforms to the structure and governance of the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court to secure better access to justice for litigants and better use of publicly funded resources provided to the federal law courts.

Reason for legislation:
To restructure the Federal Magistrates Court and Family Court and to improve the operation of the courts

The Rudd Government will restructure the Federal Courts system by:

    merging the Federal Magistrates Court into the Family Court and Federal Court;
    consolidating all family law matters under the Family Court; and
    consolidating all general federal law matters under the Federal Court.

Link to announcements:  

Media release of 20 November 2008

Media release of 5 May 2009

In November 2008, the Government released the report, Future Governance Options for Federal Family Law Courts in Australia, which found that current arrangements are:
        financially unsustainable;
        leading to confusion amongst litigants, conflict over resources and inefficiencies in administration; and
        impeding access to justice and the delivery of family law services to Australians.
Among the reports key recommendations was the creation of a single federal Family Law Court by combining the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court and a single Federal Law Court by combining the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Court.

Following the release of this report, the Government issued a discussion paper inviting public comment on its recommendations.

The proposed restructure will reduce duplication of court administrative structures and corporate services by merging the existing Federal Magistrates Court into new, lower divisions of the Family Court and the Federal Court.
  •        The Family Court will be the single court dealing will all family law matters:
  •         The restructured Family Court will have two tiers;
  •         Family law matters will generally be heard initially in the second tier, with appeals and other complex matters being redirected to the first tier;
  •         Existing judges of the Family Court will operate in the first tier;
  •         Federal Magistrates will operate in the second tier;
  •         Federal Magistrates integrated into the Family Court will be renamed judges.
  •         The Federal Court will be the single court dealing with all general federal law matters:
  •         The restructured Federal Court will have two tiers;
  •         Appeals and other complex work will generally be heard in the first tier, with shorter, less complex matters redirected to the second tier;
  •         Existing judges of the Federal Court will operate in the first tier;
  •         Federal Magistrates will operate in the second tier;
  •         Upper and lower level Fair Work Divisions, which will hear matters under the Governments new workplace relations system, will be maintained and provide a one stop shop for employers and employees;
  •         Federal Magistrates appointed to the Federal Court will have expertise in general federal law matters and will continue to be named magistrates.
  •        The restructure will produce savings of $7.8 million over four years by reducing duplicated administration costs.
  •         $1.5 million over four years of these savings will be reinvested to enable enhanced support for families and assist them to resolve disputes in a non-adversarial manner including through access to Family Consultant services.
The Government will continue its consultations with all three courts in finalising the restructure process.
Further information is available on the Attorney-Generals Department website at: www.ag.gov.au.

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