Mediation: September 1 marked the official start of the newly merged family court system, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). Positioning itself well away from its reputation of adjudicating wars between parties, the Government is using the court restructure as a chance to implement a cultural shift away from the adversarial process. In doing so it aims to “change the conversation about family law”.
Steering more families into dispute resolution is the new explicit goal of the new court system. Dispute resolution is the term that covers opportunities to resolve disputes which may occur through negotiations between lawyers, or through conciliation, mediation or FDR and arbitration. In parenting matters, it has long been necessary to undertake mandatory Family Dispute Resolution (if appropriate) before an application can be made to the courts. However, more opportunities for early intervention by dispute resolution services will be maximised throughout the new Court process.
With a heavy focus on better handling cases involving family violence, the aim is to guide families into dispute resolution wherever possible, within five months of a first appearance before a registrar.
Focus on better education for users
Chief Justice Alstergren wants families “to come into the system better educated”:
“We want them to carefully consider what they are trying to achieve – and do they have to go through a protracted and adversarial court hearing…
“It’s something a lot of lawyers try to do, to be fair; they try and tell their clients ‘you shouldn’t end up in court’, but this is what happens.”
According to the Financial Review, part of the new process is that the “courts will require every new litigant to watch a short video that Chief Justice Will Alstergren describes as a ‘reality check’ for separating couples”.
Alstergren said, “If you issue [proceedings], firstly you have to watch our video and assess whether you are doing the right thing.”
Other informational videos on the site will give more info on the new court system, and a step-by-step guide to what to expect if coming to court.
Will this see a boom in mediation services across Australia? Some large family law firms seem to be scrambling to add mediation specialists to their staff…
We’ll continue to watch how things unfold.
Meanwhile, the new court website can be found here.
Can you take your kids along to mediation?
You may be wondering if children can be involved in your chosen dispute resolution process. The answer is potentially yes. If you engage private mediation, you and your co-parent can agree to a child inclusive process. Your dispute resolution practitioner can give more guidance on this. On the other hand if you will be attending a court-based Family Dispute Resolution conference, a court child expert makes the determination on children’s direct involvement. More details here. Ultimately, your children would not be involved in the actual negotiations during mediation, but they may be given the opportunity to speak to a third party, such a psychologist, who would then report back to the parents during the mediation.
Need advice regarding mediation or family law dispute resolution? Our firm specialises in collaborative divorce therefore we understand the Australian mediation landscape well. Please give Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors a call here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information about how to receive the correct legal advice, please call Alliance Family Law.