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Debate intensifies over family court system

user iconEmma Musgrave 05 September 2016 NewLaw
Family court

The family court “crisis” has prompted a legal association to call on the federal government to appoint more judges with relevant expertise, instead of replacing the existing system.

The debate around Family Court proceedings began to gain traction again earlier this year, after Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party called for the Family Court to be abolished.

Responding to this argument, a number of family law experts told the ABC that while abolition calls should be dismissed, an overhaul of the Family Court is needed.

However, the Family Law Practitioners Association of Queensland (FLPA) said the real solution to the “family law courts crisis” is the federal government appointing more judges with family law expertise.

In a letter addressed to the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis QC, the FLPA said the strain on current judges is significantly impacting family court proceedings.

“In short, the Family Courts are at saturation point. But the system isn’t broken, it just needs more resources,” said Clarissa Rayward, FLPA president.

“Judges do their best to manage but it is a losing battle without more resources.

“Resolving a case quickly is in the best interest of children and families and will best protect them from risk, particularly when family violence is involved.”

Ms Rayward said that while the FLPA welcomes constructive reviews of family law proceedings, a new system will not solve any problems.

“Implementing a completely new system risks making the existing problem worse, as existing resources will be stretched further,” she said.

“Any system, new or old, will fail without adequate resourcing.”

Ms Rayward noted that the FLPA is concerned with the suggested replacement concepts.

“Concepts such as determining disputes by laypeople risk introducing unpredictable justice, and turning on subjective values of decision-makers will only lead to further discontent among the community,” she said.

“The Family Courts have more than 40 years of successfully determining disputes in this complicated area, which will continue to work if the existing court is properly funded.”