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Imagine this—the Family Court as a Business (!)


03.03.21

Just imagine if the Family Court was treated as a business. You might be thinking—whaaat? The Government making money out of an emotional and financially vulnerable time in separating couples’ lives??  

Bear with me for a moment. We know that businesses that niche are far more successful at solving their target market’s problems than those businesses setting out to be a one stop shop offering solutions for all problems.  

Our Family Court system already niches and is capable of helping members of our community in a meaningful way because of its specialisation.   

When a couple separates and they’re unable to reach an agreement about their financial split (aka property settlement), parenting (formerly called custody), child support and maintenance, they can apply to either the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia to help facilitate a resolution. This can mean imposing procedural steps to guide couples in reaching an agreement together or imposing a decision on them after a trial.  

Which Court a couple starts in depends on the complexity of the couple’s needs. Where there is serious child abuse or family violence, or complex questions of law, it’s generally more appropriate for a person to start proceedings in the Family Court. This is because the Family Court system provides a dedicated multi-disciplinary team and has a more intense case management system than the Federal Circuit Court.

What the Government of the day has proposed and intends to do is to merge the Family Court in with the Federal Circuit Court.  

The justification for the proposed Family Court merger appears largely based on how the system operates. That is, the intake, management, practices and procedures to conducting and facilitating the resolution of family law disputes. This proposed merger purports to benefit separating families helping “[make] it simpler and easier to navigate” the Court system, “saving them considerable time and money in the process”. (I should mention that the two Courts do have two sets of Rules and some different processes).  

Aside from little research having been done to support these statements, some strong criticism from big important players in law and the absence of consultation with the family law profession, combining the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court will mean the absence of specialist support services designed to help and support those members of our community with complex needs who require the Family Court’s services.  

The thing is for our Family Court to be successful in its pursuit of providing better outcomes for separating families.  It’s simply not a systemic issue, it’s a resource issue.

If the Government treated our Family Court as an actual business, then the Government would look to meaningfully solve its market’s problems. This would require the Government to commit ample resources and funding. It would require dedication, focus and devotion to understanding the needs of people in the system and their complex problems to then provide meaningful solutions.  

Just imagine what our Family Court system could do for couples and their children if it were appropriately and properly resourced. Just imagine what is possible.