It has taken many years of pleading from many stakeholders, but with Budget 2020, the Morrison Government is finally injecting some much-needed funding into the family court system. It’s a start, but the question is, is it enough?
The family law system has lumbered along for many years now, chronically underfunded and struggling to service the needs of modern family law consumers. While the Government has proposed a variety of measures to reform the ailing system over the past few years, and initiated various inquiries, in the meantime there has been little attention given to the problem of under-resourcing.
The Government is framing the Budget 2020 cash splash as “supporting the justice system during the COVID-19 pandemic”, rather than acknowledging that the problem of underfunding the family law system has been in the news for at least a decade, as far as we can recall.
So what’s in Budget 2020 for family law?
- There is to be an overall investment of a projected $132.1million, aimed at expediting the handling of family law and other matters.
- This will include $35.7million, over four years, for resourcing and judicial numbers in the Federal Circuit Court “to ensure timely case hearings for migration and family law cases, funded by increases to FCC migration application fees”.
- There is an additional $87.3 million earmarked “for family law services that help families going through a separation to resolve matters without having to go to court”.
- There will be $2.5 million over two years to maintain special court lists for matters arising specifically as a result of the pandemic.
- There’s $4.8m allocated to the Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme.
- There will be $2.5m for transitioning the Family Court of Western Australia to a new case management system.
- There is also $7.7 million for upgrades to various Federal Circuit Court registries (Launceston and Rockhampton).
- And there’s $1.8m to implement criminally enforceable federal family violence orders (FFVOs).
What about other than the courts?
The Law Council of Australia says it applauds the Government’s funding measures in Budget 2020 but says that the “wider legal sector misses out”. The Law Council’s president Ms Pauline Wright says:
“While the announcement is a step in the right direction, more is required to improve outcomes for Court users. However, the budgeted increase in Federal Circuit Court filing fees for migration litigants, is likely to increase social disadvantage to those who can least afford it.”
“It is also disappointing that there has been no additional funding for the legal assistance sector in addition to the funds previously announced following the bushfires and COVID-19.”
Ms Wright said:
“The legal assistance sector has been chronically underfunded for years by successive governments, yet these frontline legal services have stood up to the challenge and worked tirelessly during the aftermath of the bushfires and throughout the pandemic to assist vulnerable Australians with their legal needs.”
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.
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