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Intense start predicted for new year at Family Court

Briefs

Cite as: (2007) 81(12) LIJ, p. 14


The Family Court in Melbourne will have a blitz on matters early next year to help address lengthy delays and prepare for a new case management system.

Family Court of Australia Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the LIJ that a judicial docket system – where a judge dealt with a case from start to finish – would be introduced.

“Before we can move to a docket in each registry, we need to reduce the matters that are in the Court at the moment awaiting a hearing date because there would otherwise be too many cases to divide up between the [nine] judges,” Chief Justice Bryant said.

“In Melbourne, we are intensively listing in the early part of next year so we can reduce the number of cases that are in the pending cases list awaiting hearing dates and by at least mid-year I anticipate we will be able to divide all the cases into individual dockets.”

The docket system is part of a new case management system and is also in response to the less adversarial trial process introduced last year for matters involving children.

Chief Justice Bryant said the aim of the new system was “to streamline it more, to make it more flexible to meet the needs of the individual case, to remove events which didn’t add value to the case, and to fit in with our model of the less adversarial trial”.

Case assessment conferences for financial matters at the start of the process would be retained but defaulters lists, the trial notice list and pre-trial hearing list would cease.

Chief Justice Bryant said a less adversarial model for trials would also be introduced for property cases.

She said she wanted to cut the Court’s average time-to-trial figures.

“I would certainly like our times to come down. We ultimately are aiming for 75 per cent of the cases to be dealt with in a 12-month period from start to finish.

“At the moment it is about 17 months nationally and 20.8 months in Melbourne.”

Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) Family Law Section chair David Schetzer said he hoped the blitz on Family Court cases and the introduction of the docket system would address delays.

“People want their day in court, they want their case determined and at the present time you have got delays of up to 15 months if not longer,” he said.

“These are cases involving where the children should live, with whom the children should live, what time they should spend with the other parent, and dividing up the matrimonial assets between the husband and the wife ... people have not been able to get on with their lives,” he said.

The Court held a meeting in Melbourne on 18 October to explain the new management process and indicated that a recording of the proceedings was likely to be made accessible via the Court’s website http://www.familycourt.gov.au. The LIV Family Law Section will notify practitioners through its Section newsletters when it will become available [see also http://www.liv.asn.au/members/sections/family ].

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