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Family court

Courting opinion on the family court environment

By April 18, 2018October 26th, 2021No Comments

Have you been through the family court system and experienced first-hand the family court environment? Then you may wish to provide an account of your experience, positive or negative, to the ALRC’s call for submissions in its current family law review.

We’ve been taking a closer look at the Issues Paper recently released as part of the ALRC’s review of the family law system. One of the questions opened up for discussion in the Paper is: what improvements could be made to a family court environment, particularly when clients have security concerns for themselves or their children?

The family court environment plays a major role in ensuring individuals are able to access justice. If people are prevented from accessing justice due to perceived physical limitations of court environments, this is cause for concern, but it’s also something that can be addressed and tackled.

The ALRC’s initial consultations with stakeholders revealed that concerns expressed typically centre on the safety and accessibility of court precincts:

Are there safe rooms? Are there safety risks in having only a single entrance to a court? Is there adequate security outside courts? Are there child-friendly spaces at court? Are there separate rooms available to facilitate participation of parties who have or are experiencing violence in the proceedings?

The ALRC further notes that these security concerns mirror the concerns expressed during the Royal Commission into Family Violence, where “one of the most prominent themes in the submissions…was concern about the safety and wellbeing of court attendees”.

The Royal Commission, when examining the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, recommended measures such as safe waiting areas and rooms for co-located service providers, security staffing and equipment, separate entry and exit points for applicants and respondents, and private interview rooms for use by registrar and service providers. It also recommended improving facilities for children and ‘child-friendly’ courts, providing remote witness facilities for giving evidence off site and from court-based interview rooms, and providing multilingual and multi-format signage.

In pointing to existing examples of successful court environments, the ALCR highlights the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Victoria as “a positive example of a client-friendly, accessible and safe court building”. The Centre is described as having “breakout spaces” for people to allow them to wait for their matter outside the court, “changing the tone of court and reducing client anxiety and agitation”. The Centre also utilises roaming or dynamic security, a system which “replaces the usual airport-style security at the court entrance with roaming security guards, who talk and interact with everyone who comes into the building. [The] system is reported to defuse tension and create a more client-friendly atmosphere and has been successful in ensuring client and staff safety to date.” As such, the ALRC suggests it may be a solution for the family courts as well.

Now it’s over to the public and other stakeholders for input—how could the family court environment be improved for family law litigants? If you have any suggestions or ideas to contribute, please make sure you access the ALRC submissions page here to have your say.

You can read the full ALRC Issues Paper here.

Going to court? You might like to read our tips on preparation.

If you would like family law advice, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services 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 Legal Services.

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