Judge Holding Documents
Judge Holding Documents

Hundreds now getting their day in court

HUNDREDS of warring Queensland families have been ordered to appear in court this week for unprecedented speed judging to clear a backlog of family law matters.

Chief of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Will Alstergren and Judge Terry McGuire have flown to Brisbane to hear 250 cases - 50 a day. They are sitting into the night to hear matters.

It can be revealed about half of cases are now on track to settle parenting and property disputes.

Some had been languishing in the system for years because of litigants' inability to compromise, and lawyers seeking numerous adjournments.

It means scores of cases will now not go to trial, clearing up time for other family law disputes.

Brisbane has one of the worst backlogs of family law cases in the country.

Judge Alstergren earlier this year told families, who were deeply entrenched in dispute, they had to appear before him in court this week to explain why their case needed to go to trial.

He also organised number of mediators, arbitrators and pro bono lawyers to be at the court to help families finally settle their matters.


Judge Will Alstergren
Judge Will Alstergren


The matters, some in the system for as long as four years, were brought before Brisbane's Federal Circuit Court to identify issues that needed to be resolved.

As of yesterday, about 50 per cent of cases listed in the call-over will settle and about 35 per cent are going to mediation.

The remaining cases have been identified as needing to go to trial to be heard before a judge at a later date. Those include issues involving family violence or other complex issues.

No families have been pressured to settle, however, those fed-up with legal fees, the complexity of self-litigation and the growing desire to finalise matters have taken up Judge Alstergren's arrangements of onsite mediators, arbitrators and pro-bono legal help.

Judge Alstergen told The Courier-Mail it was an opportunity for families to resolve their dispute.

"The court acknowledges that significant delays in having their disputes resolved, particularly those which have been in the system for a number of years, is not acceptable, and the court is working hard to address this,'' he said.

"Bringing the parties and their lawyers to court allows everyone to identify the cases that are suitable to settle by consent or undertake other forms of dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration for property matters."