DIVORCING couples will be asked to undergo further mediation before having their case heard in court, under a new initiative expected to cut delays in the family court.
The move, for cases not resolved at earlier, is to be trialled for about 110 NSW couples whose property disputes are listed for hearing later this year.
Letters notifying the parties are due to be sent out on Friday.
The trial, which excludes cases where violence has been alleged, is an initiative of the Law Society and Bar Association with the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.
If successful, it could be extended to simple custody disputes, a spokeswoman for the Family Law Courts said.
Parties would be ”invited to participate”, but if they do not, they would have to explain in court why mediation was not appropriate, she said.
The Law Society president, Justin Dowd, said cases not settled earlier might be resolved at such a late stage because the ”emotional energy” surrounding them had diminished.
The trial of a second conciliation, conducted by a mediator experienced in family matters, could cost couples about $2000 each. But Mr Dowd said this was a small cost compared with about $7000 to $10,000 each, a day, for a hearing.
”This is … to try and assist to do something positive to deal with delays in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney.”
At the moment, parties had to wait about two years to have their cases heard, he said.
The Family Court Justice Garry Watts said: ”The courts want to explore all avenues of possible resolution, particularly without the emotional strain and costs associated with having a fully defended trial.”
Barry Williams, a spokesman for the Lone Fathers Association, said the group welcomed a move to more compulsory mediation because it saved court costs.
Elsbeth McInnes, from the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, said mediation should be voluntary, not compulsory. ”The point of mediation is that both parties want to reach an agreement and that they enter into mediation voluntarily with that goal in mind.”
Geesche Jacobsen – May 24, 2012