The Federal Circuit Court was established in 2001 by the Howard Government. It created a second judicial body that would operate in tandem with the Family Court of Australia. The purpose of this court was to enable litigants to access justice in a faster and in a more economical manner, while the Family Court would be tasked to hear more complex matters.

Despite this, the Court’s funding has not been commensurate with the increase of cases heard by the Circuit Court. Consequently, you may find yourself having your matter bumped between the two courts, embroiled in working through protracted processes and procedures, and in long waiting queues for your case to be heard.

In addition, the Family Court of Australia is renowned for expensive and painstaking legal procedure[i].

This is to the extent that the Federal Government wishes the court to merge with the Circuit Court. The proposal which is currently being discussed in the Senate represents a shake-down of the family law system in Australia, something which former Chief Justice Nicholson declaims is “a very fraught, destructive system[ii].”

Even so, litigating family law cases despite proposed reforms to the family law judicial system is problematic and other channels are worth exploring including mediation.

So, what is the alternative?

Mediation involves both parties engaging in a sit-down discussion accompanied by an independent third-party, sometimes an experienced barrister, to effect a resolution that both sides are content with. Mediation, being without the arduous process and procedures of courts, is thus an expedited process that culminates in a faster hearing and resolution of your case.

Undertaking a sensible mediation instead of going through court means a potential fivefold reduction on financial expenses spent on legal fees. Furthermore, mediation decreases the 18 months to two years spent in judicial proceedings which could be made longer should there be a transfer between the two family courts.

Importantly, the emotional impact of the costs, time and stress of court cannot be ignored; mediation presents the option of an early resolution. This can decrease the negative impacts of a relationship breakdown.

Paul Doolan, Chair of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia affirms that “by the end of two or three years in court you will hate your wife or you will hate your husband, you will hate the system, you will probably hate the judge, you will hate me and you will hate your barrister[iii].”

The court system inflicts a strong negative impact onto clients and is struggling to cope with rising demands of the family law system in Australia. Family law mediation is a strong alternative that should be considered.

References

[i] Alexander, Harriet. “‘Anything Can Happen Here’: How the Family Court Failed to Live up to Its Promise.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Jan. 2021, www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/anything-can-happen-here-how-the-family-court-failed-to-live-up-to-its-promise-20201214-p56nbw.html. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021

[ii] Alexander, Harriet. “‘Anything Can Happen Here’: How the Family Court Failed to Live up to Its Promise.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Jan. 2021, www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/anything-can-happen-here-how-the-family-court-failed-to-live-up-to-its-promise-20201214-p56nbw.html. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021

[iii] Alexander, Harriet. “‘Anything Can Happen Here’: How the Family Court Failed to Live up to Its Promise.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Jan. 2021, www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/anything-can-happen-here-how-the-family-court-failed-to-live-up-to-its-promise-20201214-p56nbw.html. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021