5 Jun 2018

Interesting times are afoot for those that are affected by, or work within, the family law system. The Federal Attorney General, Christian Porter, recently launched details of a major overhaul of the administrative and structural aspects of the federal Family Court system. Proposed reforms are scheduled for January 2019, and are in addition to any recommendations contained in the anticipated Law Reform Commission report which is investigating family law in Australia from multiple angles.

Assuming the Government is able to sell its agenda, the reforms will impact upon the way in which family law matters are dealt with by the Courts in all States and Territories, including WA. The stated aim is to make the system ‘user friendly and cheaper’. That is an aim we openly support.

Just as importantly to ‘high conflict Australian families’, Mr Porter aims to cut down the time it takes for families who cannot agree on a settlement to access a Judicial Officer to make the ultimate decision. The Attorney General has announced that at the heart of the proposed reforms is the creation of one larger Court to deal with all family law matters. The new ‘super court’ will have two divisions, but it is predicted by the Government to be a vastly more streamlined organisation on a day to day basis.

How these proposed changes will translate to WA, save for how any appeals are conducted, remains to be seen. This is because unlike the Eastern States, WA operates a separate State based Family Court. Although it is very similar, and has adopted many of the processes of its Eastern State counterparts, the Court in WA is rather unique.  And whilst it is still the case that the WA Court experiences delay, those delays are by no means as bad as those reported to be occurring in the Eastern States.  In contrast to the other States and Territories, WA already has a single entry Family Court system and so avoids (lots of) the administrative duplication experienced elsewhere.

What will affect WA — along with the rest of Australia — is one of the more controversial aspects of the Attorney General’s proposals.  The introduction of a faster and cheaper appeal system, whereby one judge instead of three will sit in the Appeal Court, sits at the centre of the planned reforms. This does not occur in the majority of appeals including in other non family law jurisdictions.

One judge reviewing the decision of another single judge has already caused some concern, with former Family Court chief justice Dianna Bryant arguing that the proposed reforms will possibly dilute the use of specialist judges for family law matters. It is a wholesale, fundamental change that challenges traditional thinking about the review of judges’ decisions and how that should be done. The prevailing view of the administration and conduct of any Appeal (whether that be in a family law or any other matter)  is that three judges sitting on an Appeal are inherently safer than one. Having said that, many Federal Court appeals are only ever conducted by a single judge. Mr Porter, a senior lawyer himself, seems to have adopted the view that if ‘single judge appeals’ are good enough for the Federal Court (which currently also deals with family law matters in the eastern states), it is good enough for the Family Court.

In WA, to some extent we are in the privileged position of being able to observe “from afar” what happens in the Eastern States, giving our local Family Court the opportunity to adopt those procedural and efficiency changes that result in positive and productive reform. However, notwithstanding this anomalous reality, the Government would expect that once any procedural changes are delivered over east, WA will follow suit.

Regardless of politics, it would be a brave individual who argued that the current approach is delivering judgments quickly enough, or within a system that is affordable by all. On the flip side, whether the reasons for all the current problems have been properly understood by the Government, and its independent advisers, remains to be seen.

SIMON CREEK | ALETA SHILTON | As published in The West Australian 

This is general information only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you are concerned for yourself or a member of the community, please contact HHG Legal Group on we.help.people@hhg.com.au to book a 15 minute appointment at our free legal assistance clinics.

HHG Legal Group offers high service levels, without cost concerns. How? By pioneering a genuine, simple ‘client satisfaction guarantee’. If you aren’t happy, fees will be reduced.

100 years of Supporting West Australians

"My family law experience with Mary Roubos has restored my faith in solicitors in general. She not only demonstrated her legal expertise and flair, but also showed a compassionate and understanding nature during the lengthy process. I felt that Mary went above and beyond her obligations as my solicitor, and really listened to me. I would highly recommend Mary and her assistant Debra Wilson, who also demonstrated professionalism and excellence on all levels."

Renee Frangiosa

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"

Sitka Pil

"I found Ben most helpful and always prompt to let me know where things were at. Will definately use Ben again and will recommend to others."

Gerrit and Mary Van Bralal

"We wish to express our thanks for your help in attending to our mother/ wife's will - Mrs Grace Margaret Vessey. Aimee was extremely helpful and easy to deal with. We are greatful for your help with our affairs."

Ms Rosalyn Norman, Mr Stephen Vessey

"Thank you ever so much for all your hard work on my case Nicole, I really appreciate everything you did for me."

Workers Compensation Client

"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."

Jim Goodwin

"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"

Dr Lana Bell

"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."

Jan Atkinson

"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"I highly recommend the services of HHG Legal Group for both personal and business needs. HHG is very up to date with legal advice and are in tune with the evolution of business."

Robert Forgione

"Sue and myself would like to thank HHG for the way in which our dispute was resolved. It is good to know that people who do not have an understanding of the legal system can rely on people like yourself and the company you represent. Without the assistance of HHG we could not have resolved the problems we were facing, not only have we resolved the issue but the outcome was more favourable then we would have thought possible. Thank-you and please pass on our thanks to all those who worked behind the scenes to achieve this outcome."

Rick and Sue Ashton

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."

Lynette Livesey

"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."

Nigel Plowman, Director at McKinley Plowman & Associates

"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."

Richard Beal, Director at BDO

"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."

Michael Malone, Founder of iiNet

"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years and most recently in 2013 and February 2014.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law.

I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."

Bernice Climie

"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve Harvey and Jane Powell

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."

Amanda Williamson

"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."

Kerry Samson

"Anne Hurley has been such a valuable resource of information and advice, her wealth of knowledge is truly impressive and her ability to explain things in a way that makes them easily understood is very much appreciated. Anne and the wider HHG Legal Group are always a pleasure to work with."

Giorgia Parham

"I had a fantastic lawyer in Anne Hurley. She helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly , professional manner. First class, thanks Anne"

Graeme Hammond

"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."

Carolin Grimm

"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."

Rosslyn Tasker - COO AltusQ Pty Ltd

"Good service you can count on."

Miles Lee

"HHG Legal Group have provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyound reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligernce process have been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."

Mark Armitage

"I have experienced how good the HHG Legal Group team are over the last 6 years and highly recommend them."

Lyn Hawkins

"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Anne."

Jacques Taylor

"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Legal Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."

Tony Walker