12 months on - Has Australian Family Law changed for the better?
Posted: 12th September 2022
Posted in: News
Posted by: Fiona Browne, Associate
Significant changes were introduced to Family Law on 1 September 2021. Legislation was enacted that saw the 2 courts combined to become the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
Over the years, there has been a shift towards dispute resolution or mediation, due to the significant legal costs involved in running a family law matter to trial and lengthy delays.
Once in the Family Court system, parties to a family law matter often experienced financial and emotional exhaustion. The end outcome was not one which helped them navigate their post-separation lives.
The Commonwealth government determined that reform of the family law system was necessary. Primary concerns included:
• An increasing number of complex cases
• Funding and staffing shortfalls
• Overburdened Federal Courts
• Delayed outcomes resulting in frustration and conflict for litigants
The family law changes introduced on 1 September 2021 encouraged a shift towards dispute resolution. Family law participants and their family lawyers were required to engage in a structured pathway prior to commencing proceedings. The key changes sought to encourage parties to make a real attempt to resolve their parenting matter or property settlement matter at an early stage.
Parties are required to actively undertake steps focussed on dispute resolution and mediation regardless of whether their family law matter is a parenting dispute or property settlement matter.
Our experience at Evans Brandon Family Lawyers is that the reforms to the family law system have been effective in more family law matters being resolved on a timely basis without the large costs incurred if the matter proceeded to a final hearing.
It is encouraging that the Federal Government is taking an ongoing interest in the family law system with increased funding and further reforms to the family law system.
From a family law firm’s perspective, reforms and funding should focus on:
• Providing ongoing assistance to families to resolve their family law matters.
• Early resolution and increased availability of family dispute resolution, mediation and general accessibility to the family law system.
• Increased funding for Legal Aid to provide funding for the documentation of parenting consent orders and property settlement consent orders.
• Increased funding for new family court officers which in turn accelerates the family law process.
• Further engagement between the court and family lawyers to provide for electronic methods of appearing in court in family law matters to reduce costs to clients in terms of travel to and from court and waiting time at court.
The ultimate goal is to enable our family law clients to save money on legal fees and be able to move forward with their post-separation lives.