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Law Council of Australia expresses grave concern about ‘gaping holes’ in Family Court judicial roster

On 2 July 2015, the Law Council of Australia published a media release condemning the Federal Government’s failure to replace retiring Family Court judges.
As highlighted in the media release, judges rarely retire on short notice. In spite of that, there are sometimes up to 20 month gaps between one judge retiring and the appointment of a new judge – if a new judge is appointed at all.
This time lag and reduction in sitting judges means that children and families are waiting longer for hearings and that when their matter is finally heard it will be listed in a swamped duty list. On that point, Mr Rick O’Brien, Chair of the Law Council’s Family Law section noted that the family law system was already stretched beyond breaking point in terms of under resourcing and stated that the delays in replacing retiring judges is just making a bad situation worse. That is, prior to the current crisis the family court system was already in desperate need of increased funding, but now, at a bare minimum legal professionals, members of the judiciary and the public are appealing to the Federal Government to at least replace retiring judges in a timely manner.
The Law Council of Australia predicts that by the end of 2015, 14 of the 32 Justices of the Family Court will be eligible to retire with no commitment from the Federal Government that they will be replaced. The Federal Circuit Court is also facing a large number of predicted retirements in the coming year.
Law Council of Australia President, Mr Duncan O’Connell stated that, “At a time when the horror of child sex abuse and domestic violence have been rightly brought into the public spotlight, the Government should at least be ensuring there are not gaping holes in our Family Court judicial roster”.
At present the standard wait time for a final hearing is often two years. If the current gaps in the judiciary remain unfilled then that already unreasonably long time period is predicted to expand to three years. Such long delays will have disastrous and life changing effects on young children and family relationships.
The full media release may be viewed here

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


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