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Cuts to family judges disastrous

Cuts to family judges disastrous

The Federal Government's decision to cut the number of Family Court judges has been labelled a disaster by family lawyers - which may be further exacerbated by the shakeup of the Federal Court…

The Federal Government's decision to cut the number of Family Court judges has been labelled a disaster by family lawyers - which may be further exacerbated by the shakeup of the Federal Court system, announced by the Federal Attorney-General this week.

Discussing their concerns surrounding the Government's $10 million cutback to Family Court judges revealed in the Federal Budget earlier this month, family lawyers contacted by Lawyers Weekly said the true impact of these cuts will be seen as the Government unfolds its plans to merge the family law section of the Federal Magistrates Court into the Family Court.

"[It's] an absolute disaster...it's horrible and I don't know if these judges are going to be replaced...the longer you're in the court system the more entrenched the parties become," said Swaab Attorneys family lawyer Marilyn Hauptmann.

Sharing Hauptmann's concern, Slater & Gordon family lawyer Aleta Shilton said: "[The court delays are] a significant concern because people's lives have been put on hold for that duration.

"It takes a significant period of time to go through the court system. It can take anywhere from 12 months at best [and up to] three or three and a half years," Shilton said.

Family lawyer Peter Berry agreed the cuts to the number of judges is not a good thing and said it will be interesting to see what further changes will emerge in line with the Federal Magistrates Court and Family Court merge.

Discussing his ambition to give the Family Court a new lower tier in line with a new Military Court, the Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the new structure is designed to offer a "more integrated and efficient system in order to efficiently deliver legal and justice services".

The court restructure is yet to be finalised as the Government is still in consultation with the courts and the Law Council of Australia.

- Briana Everett

Read our family law practice profile in the next edition of Lawyers Weekly.

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