Lawyers have cautiously welcomed plans to merge two family courts in a bid to slash waiting times, arguing decades of chronic underfunding has brought the system to its knees.
Families now wait for more than a year for trials in both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court, with cases often bouncing back and forth between the two.
Attorney-General Christian Porter says merging the courts will speed up complex trials, cut the backlog of unresolved cases, and reduce prolonged and acrimonious family disputes.
"This significant structural change is designed to dramatically increase the number of family law matters finalised each and every year," Mr Porter said on Wednesday.
"These reforms ... (have) the potential in time to allow up to an extra 8000 cases to be resolved each and every year."
The Law Council of Australia described the proposal as a necessary first step towards resolving "the crisis in our courts", but wants to see details of the plan.
Council president Morry Bailes said decades of underfunding, and an increasing number of self-represented people appearing before the courts, also needed to be addressed.
"Further investment in the courts and legal aid is still required to deliver the best outcomes for children and Australian families," Mr Bailes said.
The public sector union, which represents court staff, believes the shake-up ignores the reality of an overstretched system.
CPSU deputy national president Rupert Evans said it was the fifth major restructure of the courts in a decade, with staff still reeling from the latest round of job cuts and disruption.
"This constant reshuffling is adding to the pressure on judges and staff while ignoring the underlying problems with the federal courts," Mr Evans said.
"It is lunacy."
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said family law system reform was needed, but Labor was concerned about a lack of consultation.
The government also needed to take responsibility for dragging its feet to fill judicial vacancies.
"We need to see the evidence for this proposed near-abolition of the Family Court, the evidence that this will produce better outcomes for families," Mr Dreyfus said.
Almost 1200 cases are transferred between the two courts each year, some after having been in court for more than 11 months.
The merger will see judges from the Family Court hear family law matters, while Federal Circuit Court judges will hear family and general matters.
Over time, all judges will hear both family and general cases.
Former Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson described the proposed changes as a "complete destruction of the family law system" which he fears could strain the emotions of litigants and lead to a heightened security risk.
Legislation to implement the changes will be introduced later this year.