Listed practice Australian Family Lawyers is unveiling a new online division in response to the “increasingly urgent need” to have family law cases heard amid the growing relationship fallouts triggered by the global pandemic.
The service, called the faculty of arbitration and mediation (FAM), is a division of the newly merged AFL and Watts McCray national family law practices.
It is, the firm proclaimed, the “first of its kind in Australia”.
AFL developed it in response to the “ongoing difficulties and long delays in Australia’s family court system for family law cases that need arbitration or mediation”.
“It comes at a time of unprecedented pressure on families during COVID, with divorce rates expected to skyrocket, amid financial hardship, job losses and the social implications of lockdown,” the firm said in a statement.
It comes as the Federal Circuit and Family Court (FCFC) launches next month.
FAM head Justin Dowd said that the merger of the two courts presently doing family law work has put into sharp focus the delay, cost and worry that litigants who have been waiting, sometimes for years, have experienced.
“The new merged Court is urging the parties and practitioners involved in the 7,000 cases that remain in their lists to move to arbitration in financial cases and mediation in cases involving children. These cases need a much quicker, cost effective and certain outcome,” he outlined.
“This is where we see FAM will come to the fore. We have a team of certified, accredited mediators and arbitrators who will specifically focus on alternative dispute resolutions.”
Moreover, Mr Dowd continued, the firm expects to provide “quick and certain” decisions, “utilising our decades of experience as Family Law experts, deep understanding of the current legal frameworks and an innovative approach to unlock family law problems”.
“Under our model a fixed fee means all parties know what their costs will be upfront, which gives clients and lawyers certainty. The FAM offering will definitely save clients money, as well as time and stress, so they can get their lives back on track,” Mr Dowd submitted.
“We believe it is best to use independent arbitrators or mediators who have been working at the coalface of family law because what is happening in the space is changing rapidly. It helps to have arbitrators and mediators who have practical skills, who are working specifically in family law and can bring that expertise to the table for the benefit of the parties and their lawyers.”
AFL managing director Grant Dearlove added: “At AFL, we are always innovating, it is what makes us stand out as a leader in the New Law space. We are always looking for ways to improve the system and deliver good outcomes for Australians who are struggling to resolve their relationship disputes.
“This is a new arm of our business, which is designed to meet market demand for cost effective and prompt service and we have answered that call quickly. We’re able to pivot and innovate as the market changes, really setting us apart from firms that are stuck in old world thinking, without the agility of our business model.”