Friday, 17 August 2018

 Legislation for family courts reform to be introduced

Media release

Attorney-General, Christian Porter, today confirmed that legislation to reform the federal courts dealing with family law matters would shortly be introduced into Federal Parliament.

"In May I announced that the Government was finalising legislation to establish a new, single Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA) to be established from 1 January 2019," the Attorney-General said.

"The overwhelming driver behind this important structural reform is to help families in dispute as a result of relationship breakdown resolve their matters as quickly, cost-efficiently and efficiently as possible."

"The legislation has been carefully developed, reflecting extensive consultation with the courts and taking into consideration a large number of inquiries over the last decade which each related to the efficiency of the federal courts and the family law system, including:

  • the 2008 Semple Review entitled 'Future Governance Options for Federal Family Law Courts in Australia: Striking the Right Balance';
  • a 2014 KPMG Review entitled 'Review of the performance and funding of the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia';
  • a 2015 EY Report entitled 'High Level Financial Analysis of Court Reform Initiatives';
  • the 2017 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Report entitled 'A better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence: Recommendations for an accessible, equitable and responsive family law system which better prioritises safety of those affected by family violence'; and
  • a 2018 PwC Report entitled 'Review of efficiency of the operation of the federal courts'.

"Today, I am releasing the PwC report, commissioned by the Government earlier this year to analyse in detail the extensive data available on the operations of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court in relation to family law matters."

"The most recent report focused its analysis on measuring relative outcomes based on comparisons of several key performance indicators and it highlights contrasting performance outcomes between the two existing courts and identifies some of the areas that contribute to serious delays in settling disputes, and estimates the potential efficiency gains that could be achieved by reform and so produce significant improvements for Australian families."

"The Australian Law Reform Commission is already undertaking an extensive review of the family law that underpins the family law system and I look forward to receiving its report at the end of March 2019 which could inform potential future reform to the Family Law Act to be considered once the present structural reforms are concluded."

"In the meantime, the legislation to be introduced focuses on improving the administration of the courts dealing with family law matters with one overriding focus – to improve services for families who require the court so that they and any children affected can move on with their lives. Any future ALRC recommendations relating to court processes that merit implementation will be more easily implemented in a new, simplified court structure."

The PwC Report has been redacted to remove information that would not be in the public interest to disclose. Such information includes material pertaining to matters ordinarily within the purview of the courts, material pertaining to the internal operations of the courts that are not publicly available and comments attributable to particular people

The remaining reports outlined above will be tabled in Parliament upon the introduction of the legislation.

The PwC report is available here.