Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the courts dealing with family law cases (the Family Court of Australia (FCoA) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC)) have faced considerable delays and accumulated a backlog of cases and applications during the course of 2020. The increased caseload has seen the bench being unable to keep up with the influx of new applications and is made worse by the slow replacement rate of judges. These circumstances have resulted in devastating impacts on both the family law system as well as the families seeking its help.
In terms of the legal system, many judges, and likely court staff members as well, are facing increased stress. The stress stems from the high number of cases and the urgency these cases need to be dealt with due to the risk posed to parties and children involved because of medical reasons or potential family violence. The high stress facing these judges have a heavy impact on their mental health, and the legal profession is showing increasing concern for the judges dealing with these cases, especially when they have to hear emotionally taxing cases day after day.
Because of the above, there have been renewed calls for more funding to the courts within the family law jurisdiction, and for The Government to take a closer look at the potential merger of the FCC and the FCoA. The goal of this merger would be a more streamlined administrative system to process applications more efficiently.
On the side of applicant families, it has been reported that some are using the delays as a means to perpetuate further family violence. Because of the delays and the inability of the court to handle all the applications promptly (not necessarily by the fault of the court), many cases have been turned away, and vulnerable applicants are unable to obtain the resolution and protection they require. The courts have sought to resolve this by introducing the COVID-19 list back in April; however, its effectiveness has yet to be fully proven.
Because of the above, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the family law system in Australia needs to be reviewed and streamlined to better offer timely services to those who desperately require it.
The team at Midwinters Lawyers are ready to assist you with all your legal matters precisely as they relate to the Family Law landscape.