Family Court merger to pass parliament
A controversial plan to merge the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will go ahead, with the bill expected to pass the Senate this week.
South Australian crossbench senator Rex Patrick has agreed to back the Federal Government's merger plan in return for a multimillion-dollar package for SA and changes to the bill.
The government now has the numbers for the bill to pass the Senate.
The courts will be merged to create a single court known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
It will have a single point of entry for family law cases, a common set of rules, a single administration system, a streamlined family law appeals pathway, and two divisions.
Division one will be a continuation of the Family Court, and division two will a continuation of the Federal Circuit Court.
The Advertiser understands the government has agreed to Senator Patrick's amendment to guarantee that division one can never have less than 25 justices.
Senator Patrick said the provision would help maintain the specialist knowledge of justices in the Family Court.
"My view is the changes now are relatively small," Senator Patrick said.
"I have talked to judges, lawyers, including those in the community centres, the law society, and the Chief Justice, and on balance, I've come to the conclusion that this change will improve efficiency in the family law system," he said.
It's understood Senator Patrick has secured extra resources for SA's courts and legal services.
The Law Council of Australia has fiercely opposed the merger, along with 11 retired Family Court and Federal Circuit Court judges and former Chief Justices Elizabeth Evatt and Alastair Nicholson.
The Family Court assists Australians to resolve their most complex legal family disputes.
The Federal Circuit Court was originally established to provide a simple and accessible alternative to litigation in the Federal Court and the Family Court and to relieve the workload of those courts.
Law Council President Jacoba Brasch said now was not the time to proceed with the "unnecessary, risky bill" as the "devastating shadow pandemic of family violence" experienced during COVID-19 continued.
Community Legal Centres Australia chief executive Nassim Arrage also warned against the merger, saying it would "move away from a specialist family court model, exposing survivors of family violence to unnecessary risk".
Originally published as Family Court merger to pass parliament