Family Court appeal judges have declined a request by Chief Justice William Alstergren that they preside over trials as well as appeals in an attempt to reduce the Court’s backlog, according to an article published by The Australian on 30 April 2019. Due to a crippling backlog of cases awaiting trial in the Family Court, some matters have taken up to three years to reach trial and resolution.

Chief Justice Alstergen commented in early April 2019 on plans to establish a common set of rules, forms and case management in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia to improve the family law system. The Chief Justice said at the time that “…there has been a long history of unacceptable delays in having family law cases heard and determined. That needs to change as does our family law system”.

If you are looking to commence family law proceedings, it is important to understand the delays in reaching trial and that there are other ways to progress your matter in the meantime, such as through mediation or arbitration.

Mediation is a negotiation where parties aim to resolve their dispute with the assistance of a qualified mediator. Mediation can be ordered by the court or arranged privately. The advantages of mediation include:

  1. Parties have greater control of the process;
  2. Mediation is confidential and voluntary;
  3. Mediation is cheaper than litigation; and
  4. Mediation is faster than litigation.

Arbitration is a process where parties present their position to an independent arbitrator who then makes a final determination. The parties can agree that the decision of the arbitrator is binding if the decision is then made the subject of court orders. The advantages of arbitration are similar to those related to mediation. The disadvantages of arbitration are that it is limited to financial matters only in family law and that as a non-court process, the right of appeal in court is limited.

If you would like to learn more about the alternatives to litigation in attempting to resolve your family law dispute, please contact Rowan Skinner and Associates Lawyers to discuss a way forward and meet with one of our lawyers.