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2017 Federal Budget Response. Antonella discusses how the announcements affect Family Law.

2017 Federal BudgetFamily Law Matters Principal Solicitor and Director Antonella Sanderson shares her review of the 2017 Federal Budget announcements.

 

‘I am beyond disappointed that the 2017 Federal Budget considered no practical solutions to remedy the significant and ongoing delays being experienced in the family law system. The Government announced it will invest $12.7 million to establish Parenting Management Hearings. This is a new model which has not been tried, discussed or tested within the community of professional family lawyers. Those funds would have otherwise been best put to properly resourcing the existing court structure, rather than introducing yet another layer to an already complex dual layered family law system.

Although I acknowledge the announcement that there will be $10.7 million over four years for extra family consultants to deal with family law cases this investment is not even nearly adquate to support a system that is predicted to to see a budget shortfall of $75 million by FY17/18.

On the second last sitting day prior to the Budget, the Senate passed an historic motion calling for urgent action on a number of fronts including proper funding of the family court.  Here’s an excerpt from the motion:

“…The Senate … acknowledges, with respect to the under funding of the federal courts:

(i) the neglect of the Federal and Family Courts means that families facing the most serious family law issues can wait up to three years before a final trial,

(ii) that these unacceptably long delays in hearings and determinations are denying justice and fairness to Australians seeking protection and finality in their legal affairs, with detrimental impacts on vulnerable children, families, business, and entire communities, and

(iii) a 2014 KPMG report given to the Government, but not released, found the Federal, Family and Federal Circuit Courts were on track for a combined budget shortfall of $75 million by 2017-18 which will result in further cuts to their services; and

(d) calls on the Government to:

(ii) release the 2014 KPMG Report on the Federal Courts given to the Attorney-General,

(iv) review resourcing for the federal courts and identify what resources are required to address unacceptable delays in hearing and determinations.

Despite this, absolutely no funding was announced in the 2017 Federal Budget to provision more judges or registrars to either of the family law courts.  The family law system is suffering, the Chief Justices of both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have long pleaded with the Government for adequate funding. The needs of Australian families battling in a distressed family court system have not been addressed.

After 17 years of practising in this jurisdiction, it is heart-breaking to see my clients put to the terrible decision of having to litigate their matter in this terribly broken family law system.  We are seeing more and more trauma being inflicted on families, and in particular upon children, whose lives are “on hold” whilst in the grip of delays in court.  Despite our best intentions to always try and assist our clients to reach a resolution of their matters in a sensible and practical way, and avoiding court altogether, this is not always possible.  For the small proportion of people that have no option but to turn to a court for genuine assistance, their road is unreasonably (and unnecessarily) long, traumatic and expensive.’

ENDS

For further comment or to interview Antonella Sanderson, please contact:

HM Whitehurst or K Gaunt

Family Law Matters

02 9523 3007 or complete the form here.

 

ENDS

For further comment or to interview Antonella Sanderson, please contact:

HM Whitehurst or K Gaunt

Family Law Matters

02 9523 3007 or complete the form here.