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Family Court has Damaged Families for 30 Years

29 September 2011

Family Court has Damaged Families for 30 Years

“The Family Court, which celebrates its 30th birthday on 1 October 2011, has much to do to restore its battered public image”, says Bruce Tichbon, spokesperson for Families Apart Require Equality (FARE).

“For years there has been a high level of vocal public criticism of the Family Court, but now even government has joined the fray. To quote Justice Minister Simon Power: “we have to ask whether the current [family law] system is really incentivised to put children first” and he talks of it being “an ill thought-out and dysfunctional system”.

“Family Court costs have run out of control, increasing by 63% in the last 5 years (to $137 million in 2009/10). Yet the case load on the court has barely changed during this period, says Bruce Tichbon.

“The government has been forced implement a review of the Family Court; but the review discussion document just released is scary. The Family Court will start charging heavily for its services. Parents will be forced to make greater use of mediators who have no power to enforce reasonable outcomes. Yet the current unsatisfactory family law structure will be retained, placing uncertainty onto parents and forcing them o continue to battle each other for custody of their children.

“Strangely, the review discussion document barely mentions the recent Australian reforms in favour of preferential shared parenting. This simple and flexible mechanism, which has reduced litigation and Family Court costs overseas, has been ignored.

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“The government is trying to relieve itself of the bloated costs of the Family Court, without offering any substantive relief for the families that are affected by our polarising family law system.

“The Family Court and family law must be reformed, and quickly, if the Family Court is to ever re-establish the respect and confidence of the public. The needs of children and families must come first.

“Unfortunately, the current government initiatives with the Family Court could make things much worse, not better”, concluded Tichbon.

ENDS

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