A Better Way To Resolve Child Custody Battles On The Horizon?
Although not well known, any member of the public has the right to go and observe any Court proceedings on any day. This right is based on the principle that justice must not only be done but “seen to be done”. In the Supreme or District Courts on George Street, the spectator is likely to witness a very orderly process. Lawyers in wigs and gowns each wait their turn and converse in drab monotones over rules and procedure that would bore most people to sleep. Over in the Family Court on Tank Street however, the scene on most days, is more resemblant of a Zoo⃰ ! Family Court judges are often seen shouting and repetitively reprimanding/disciplining litigants for rule infringements as they attempt to fight their way through impossible lists of 20+ disputes all scheduled for determination by one Judge in one day.
Many of these cases involve parents battling over the care arrangements best suited for their children. Under a Court adversarial system, each litigant is permitted to present their case or “have their say” but in truth the arguments are often more about ventilating hatred and distrust over failures as a partner not as a parent. Over time, many initiatives have been trialled to solve this problem including, creating a lower-teared Court with simplified procedures and compulsory mediation. Each initiative has had some success, but none have significantly reduced the proliferation of parenting cases constantly clogging the Court.
Starting from 2018 however, the Government is planning to trial a new lower level style of Court which is to be called a “Parenting Management Hearing Panel”. Panel Members will hold expertise in family law, mediation, family violence, psychology, mental health and child development. Like a Court, the Panel’s decisions will be binding on the parents but unlike a Court, the Panel can operate in a more proactive inquisitorial manner. This means the Panel would be entitled to take control of the dispute and ask the parents the questions rather than being required to sit passively and hear out each of the parent’s grievances before attempting to step in with a solution.
If approved by the Senate, the first Panel will operate as a pilot program in Paramatta with a second location to be chosen later this year. The proof will be in the tasting but at first glance, the initiative and the driving intuition behind it certainly offers strong promise of giving warring parents a much more suitable avenue for the resolution of their disputes.
⃰ and not the good kind that respects animal welfare
Michael Zande is a Queensland Law Society accredited family law specialist with over 25 years experience in the field. He is the principal at Zande Law Solicitors, Suite 7, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes. To contact Michael for advice, phone 3385 0999.
The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.