The Court recently issued the first joint Practice Direction of the year – Core Principles in the Case Management of Family Law Matters for the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
The matters contained within the Practice Direction will not be surprising to lawyers or litigants using the Court, particularly in the focus on alternate dispute resolution, including private mediation, family dispute resolution, and conciliation conferences. We have previously written about mediation, but here is a refresher!
Mediate, don’t detonate
Everyone who has spoken to a family lawyer in Sydney recently will know about the problems with our Court system – “the Sydney problem”. Anyone who has watched the news or had a keen eye on newspapers recently would have a vague awareness that delays in the system are lengthy and unavoidable. This means that children can spend years of their lives caught up in a system that is currently underfunded and viewed with general disdain.
To say that this problem is unique to Sydney is not correct. The Courts in Newcastle, Wollongong and Parramatta are also suffering due to a lack of funding and a lack of new Judicial appointments. Country circuits and other states aren’t running smoothly either:
- It can take three years for a final hearing date from commencing proceedings, if you’re lucky.
- It can take another 12 months for Judgment.
- This doesn’t even factor in one party being unhappy with a final determination and Appealing to a higher Court. Matters can go on for a decade.
Who wants to spend a decade of their life having an argument with an ex-partner?
The Courts and all of us who work in them are looking at other options for settling family law matters without having to put clients through years of litigation. Judges dislike the delays as much as anyone else who has to deal with the system.
One option that is usually discussed but for a number of reasons, is often avoided is mediation.
Mediation provides a very real opportunity for the parties to have a useful conversation that can bring about a result for them without ever going near a Court room. They can have far more control over the process and the result if they’re not handing over the power to someone who is well-meaning but doesn’t know them.
Mediation occurs with the assistance of your family law qualified solicitors, a registered mediator/Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and sometimes experts from different disciplines.
Mediation can be utilised for children’s matters or property/financial matters. It may feel like you’re not getting anywhere for a little while because there are intakes, there’s disclosure, there are personal and group interviews, however, the other option is waiting for the matter to actually be given a final hearing date. That’s a wait that sends your matter into a black hole.
If you are involved in a mediation and you approach the process with an open mind, you might be able to save yourself years of stress, financial pressure and the great unknown.
You will also be able to get back to living your life and move on.
Tiyce & Lawyers – we’re here when you need us.