Mcphee Lawyers

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01 February 2018

Practice Management Hearings

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The delays experienced by some parents involved in parenting proceedings before the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court are leading to tragic outcomes for parents and children. For the Judiciary who have been appointed to make parenting Orders that are in the best interests of children, it is a sad irony that the family law system’s inability to resolve matters quickly often negatively impacts the children before a parenting Order can even be made.

As a family lawyer, I share the view of many of my colleagues that there are simply not enough Judges to deal with the volume of people seeking the assistance of the Court. The legislative framework and family law system is not necessarily causing the problem. Rather, it is the lack of Commonwealth funding for new Judges and Court staff. Australia has a Rolls Royce system running on two cylinders.

While it is obvious that increasing the resources of the Court would reduce delay, I do welcome any government initiative which aims to help parents and carers resolve their parenting disputes quickly and efficiently. Something desperately needs to be done.

One idea put forward to address the problem is the concept of Parenting Management Hearings (PMH). The scheme is proposed to be a ‘fast, informal, non-adversarial dispute resolution mechanism’ that will involve the appointment of a panel of family lawyers, psychologists, social workers and child development experts. It is expected that the panel will have the power to make binding decisions in a similar way to the current Courts. The Federal Government has introduced a bill to establish the PMH Panel as an independent statutory authority to provide self-represented litigants with an alternative to the Court process for resolving parenting disputes.

The PMH’s will be trialed at Parramatta NSW with a second trial location to be announced later this year. I look forward to learning of the trial outcome and whether the new approach can offer families hope that their parenting disputes can be determined within a reasonable time.

Please contact us if we can be of any assistance with your family law matter.

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