29 July 2004

The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant, today welcomed the Government's announcement to establish a national network of family relationship centres offering education and mediation to all separating couples.

"The Government is to be commended for providing additional resources that will offer separating couples access to facilities to assist them to reach agreement about the future parenting of their children, without needing to come to court."

"I hope it will result in parents being able to resolve disputes in a much more child focused way which will ultimately mean better outcomes for all families, particularly children."

Justice Bryant said the Family Court remained strongly focused on helping families resolve their disputes by agreement, particularly where children were involved.

"The Court has long held the view that a formal hearing with a judge should be regarded as the last resort.

"The Government's announcement today in respect of introducing less adversarial processes endorses that view," the Chief Justice said.

Justice Bryant said the Court's Children's Cases Program (CCP), currently being trialed in its Sydney and Parramatta registries, could potentially become a model for determining parenting disputes.

"The Children's Cases Program is an evolutionary change to the process of litigation in that it is less adversarial and enables the Court to take the initiative in determining what issues are in dispute and what evidence is directed to those issues which in turn enables the parents to focus more clearly on the best interests of their children.

"The CCP is yet to be fully evaluated but it may represent the future of parenting proceedings."

The Chief Justice also welcomed the proposed reforms to the Family Law Act regarding the introduction of a single point of entry for family law matters which she said would help streamline the family law process and reduce the uncertainty that often arises when people have to engage with the family law system.

"I am also supportive of the Government's intention to clarify the legislation about the rights of parents and grandparents to share in the lives of children."