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Mediation, counselling still stand says Collins

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Justice

28 July 2013

Mediation, counselling still stand says Collins

Justice Minister Judith Collins says mediation, as part the of the Government’s Family Court reforms, will help provide fast and efficient resolution of private disputes so the Court may focus on the most serious cases.

“The Government’s proposed Family Disputes Resolution (FDR) service will offer expert mediation for all couples to help resolve relationship problems affecting their children before they apply to come before the court,” Ms Collins says.

“It’s important couples are supported to resolve their disputes out of court where possible to ensure the Court remains focused on the most serious matters requiring judicial decisions."

Ms Collins says if court action is needed the judge will have discretion to refer parties to counselling if it will be beneficial to them resolving their dispute.

“A judge will still be able to direct couples to relationship counselling as appropriate and of course parties will still be able to attend private relationship counselling if they wish.”

Ms Collins says it's not the role of the Family Court to be funding general relationship counselling.

An extensive review of the Family Court in 2011 found the Court is too adversarial; it is harmful for children, not focused enough on serious domestic violence cases, too slow, too complex and spends too much time on simple private matters that are better resolved outside court.

Ms Collins says FDR was a key recommendation of the External Reference Group, comprised of professionals who work in the Family Court and established to provide advice on how the Family Court could operate more effectively.

It is expected FDR will resolve about 4,000 out of over 26,000 care of children applications made to the Court every year.

Ms Collins says the Government is also expanding the successful Parenting Through Separation course that helps parents to understand and focus on the needs of their children when they separate.

“Both FDR and the expansion of the Parenting Through Separation programme will empower parents to resolve disputes themselves, with expert support and mediation,” says Ms Collins.

Overall, the cost to the taxpayer of running the Family Court grew 70 per cent in the six years to 2012, from $84 million to $142 million per year, despite the overall number of applications to the Court remaining steady.

Under the proposed reforms mediators will be required to produce a report detailing the outcome of the FDR session.

“This reporting will give us a much better view of the effectiveness and performance of FDR providers and the Family Justice System,” Ms Collins says.

“If we can keep people out of the Family Court, except where they should be in the Family Court, we are going to have more time for those matters that we should be dealing with.”


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