A rise in litigation over recent years is placing growing pressure on Australia's court systems, leading to backlogs that can delay cases for up to years.
In 2019-20, the Family Court of Australia received more than 21,000 applications, the highest number recorded in the past five years. Record numbers, together with an increase in urgent applications and reduced court efficiency due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, have further acerbated the already congested Court system.
While the 2020-21 Federal Budget includes an additional $87.3 million for family law services to assist with resolving matters without having to go to court, protracted court proceedings continue to erode funding.
To better manage increasing demand for court services and to reduce the 500-odd backlog of cases that have been in the system for two or more years, the Family Court of Australia has begun advocating for arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution process.
How arbitration is alleviating pressure on the courts
Arbitration is considered an attractive alternative to ligation and mediation for disputes related to property and relationship breakdown, both domestically and internationally.
Arbitration has several key benefits including:
- It's a faster process: Court litigation can take anywhere from weeks to years. Arbitration is typically a faster process as it is not reliant on the availability of a judge, commonly reducing the length of a dispute by months and even years.
- It's binding: Unlike mediation, once registered, awards made during arbitration are an enforceable decree of the courts making it a genuine alternative to court proceedings.
- It's private: Arbitration offers greater privacy than court proceedings as it is a closed process. Additionally, the arbitration agreement can be designed to include confidentiality requirements, preventing disclosures made during the process from being made public.
- It's cost effective: When factoring in time and both legal and court costs, arbitration can be a more cost-effective approach to dispute resolution than through the court system.
- It's flexible: Matters reviewed under arbitration are restricted to those agreed upon by both parties. Parties also have control over the appointment of the arbitrator, the issues they wish to have arbitrated e, as well as control over the jurisdictional laws and rules they wish to apply. Additionally, arbitrations can be conducted in a a range of formats including in-person and via written submission.
While not all matters are suitable for arbitration, the push by the Family Court ensures the court system remains flexible and responsive to the evolving needs of all Australians.
Lander and Rogers specialises in arbitration for family law matters, including disputes related to property and financial disputes.
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