The evolution of our family law judges has been nothing short of astounding over the last eighteen months, with senior members of the judiciary becoming more and more political and using judgements and the national press to let the public know where they stand on important topics relating to the family justice system and with maverick judges like Nick Crichton running the Family Drug and Alcohol Court and blurring some of the rather more pointless lines between judge and adviser, it is only a matter of time before someone else has the courage to move the system on.
And if there’s a direction Researching Reform would like to see our system take, it would be one very similar to the trail blazed by a female judge in a court in Alaska.
Judge Stephanie Joannides, a judge in the Superior Court, was concerned about the backlog of divorce cases in her court and wanted to find a way to process the cases efficiently and quickly. And so, Early Resolution, a programme which aims to help couples resolve their disputes amicably, was born.
What’s so nifty about this project is that other than making the court process for this programme informal, so everyone feels relaxed, it also makes sure that everyone who does not have legal representation gets it by offering spouses and parents a pro bono lawyer. How awesome is that?
But it gets better. Everyone inside the system is used efficiently. Lawyers are tasked with certain things and the Early Resolution Team have their own tasks to complete. No overlap, doubling up or re-hashing. Together, the team and the lawyers work to try to help everyone come to an agreement.
In its first year, the program achieved a settlement rate of 80 percent. That’s far better than we are achieving here at the moment, with mediation, arbitration and concentration…. and other states in America are now following suit (pardon the pun).
So come on ladies and gentlemen of the family judiciary, what are you waiting for?!