The delays in the family law jurisdiction have been the focus of considerable attention for some time, but even more so in recent months. This month, family law practitioners in Brisbane welcomed the judicial appointment of the Honourable Justice Catherine Carew to the Family Court of Australia.
However, with only three Family Court judges in the trial division in Brisbane, the caseload of the Family Court will continue to overflow. The Federal Circuit Court is under similar strain with too many matters for the number of judges appointed to that Court. It is not uncommon for litigants in the Family Court to wait up to two years for a trial date, and a further 12 months for judgment. This could see parties who file their applications today not receive a hearing date until the end of 2017 and, potentially, a judgment at the end 2018, if not later. This creates many complexities for families and in particular children who are forced to wait in abeyance until judgment is delivered.
A three year wait for a decision is hardly practical or desirable for most families and it is important that litigants are aware of their alternative avenues of resolution outside of the Court system. Parties to a family law dispute can resolve their matter through various avenues, including:
- Negotiation, including exchanges of offers through correspondence and round table conferences;
- Arbitration; and
- Collaborative law.
There are also instances where particular dispute resolution avenues can be explored concurrently with Court proceedings.
There are many advantages to resolving family law disputes outside of the Court process. Parties will retain control of their matter and, in most circumstances, minimise the emotional and financial costs associated of litigation.
The most appropriate resolution process will depend upon the particular and personal circumstances of a matter.