On March 2, 2020, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts) issued a media release in relation to their initiative to address the backlog of family law cases in Australia by launching a Summer Campaign. The Summer Campaign is among the efforts implemented by the Courts to manage all the hindrances that families went through for a long time. It also serves as an opportunity for families to resolve family law disputes. Every family is also encouraged to settle on an agreement through Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR).
The said campaign commenced and launched last February 12, 2020, in Melbourne and earned positive views and feedbacks from various litigants and practitioners. There are around 2000 delayed cases that are pending for 18 months to four years in the court system. And through the Summer Campaign initiative, these cases will be given priority and will be part of the series of call-overs for the next three months.
The call-overs will be in the cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, and Sydney. The media release also included the schedules of call-overs. The Family Law call-overs in Sydney is scheduled for March 2 to 6 and March 9 to 11. On the other hand, the call-overs that will take place in the Federal Circuit Court is scheduled from March 16 to 20 in Sydney and April 6 to 9 in Parramatta. It is expected that there will be around 730 cases listed in Sydney alone.
The number of cases allocated to each day of the Summer Campaign varies from location to location. Around 20 to 25 cases are more on parenting and property disputes. These disputes are listed before a judge who is among the six senior judges that are assigned to deal with these disputes.
There are no concrete numbers yet as to how many family dispute cases were resolved during the Summer Campaign in February but the Family Courts assured that there are quite a number of cases that are either settled or are already on the way to its most awaited resolution. Such resolutions were made through engaging in dispute resolutions within the court and external ADR services.
ADR usually takes place before litigation happens in court. The Court can also decide whether some cases can be dealt with ADR first. Among the types of ADR include Mediation, Arbitration, and Expert Determination. With ADR, family disputes can be settled and resolved without needing litigation. Court action takes a long time and having an ADR can be beneficial for the parties involved.
Hon. Will Alstergren, The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, acknowledges that the Courts view lengthy delays in the resolution of family disputes as unacceptable. They also vow that they will take action on these backlogs and are exerting efforts to address these delays. Hon. Alstergren is also seeking the cooperation of families who sought dispute resolution to the Courts as well as family law practitioners who are involved in the call-overs as mentioned above.
The Chief Justice also added that it is imperative to maintain a positive relationship and open collaboration with state-based legal aid bodies, law societies, and Bar association so that the families who have been experiencing delays in the resolution of their family disputes will be given the assistance and help that they need.