By Gianna Huesch
Families and family law practitioners alike will welcome the news that the freshly sworn in chief judge of the Federal Circuit Court, Will Alstergren, has vowed he plans to prioritise reducing the time that it takes for families to have their matters proceed and be resolved through the court system.
At present, there is a much publicised backlog of family law cases in the court system that has forced families to wait for up to three years for outcomes to be delivered in their parenting and property disputes.
The situation has been intolerable for some years now, with dire warnings regularly in the media as to the effect on families who are unable to move on with their lives due to their court proceedings stagnating in the under-resourced court system. As well as causing excruciating waiting times for families, the caseload has placed a heavy burden on judicial staff, with fears expressed that the delivery of justice could be impacted.
Now, however, Mr Alstergren has announced that a fast-tracking pilot program will take place, initially in the Melbourne registry, with an attempt to resolve 200 family law disputes there which have been “languishing in the system the longest”, according to The Australian newspaper.
These property and parenting matters will be afforded intensive case management in a two week timeframe, “in an attempt to resolve them appropriately – either by referring them for mediation or directing them to prepare for a trial”.
After the Melbourne pilot, it has been announced that Sydney will see similar fast-tracking “before the end of the year”, and fast-tracking at other registries around the country is promised to follow in 2018.
So far there has been no mention of any new funding arrangements which have enabled these pilots to now occur, nor any explanation why this is suddenly able to take place after years of pleading amongst practitioners, court users and judges, nor any discussion of how the fast-tracking can be extended beyond the pilot programs dealing with the longest-waiting matters. A focus on speeding up the resolution of cases is, however, a definite positive for stakeholders in the court system and will be a relief to at least those families whose cases will now be fast-tracked.
Other improvements to the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Courts’ efficiency will hopefully also be seen as the industry proceeds through the current parliamentary inquiry and the simultaneous review of the forty year old Family Law Act. The possibility of structural change to the court system has also recently been flagged by attorney-general George Brandis.
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.