The current Family Court is overly expensive, slow, formalistic, intimidating, inaccessible, does not give an effective voice to children (due to failures in the role of the ICL) and does not respond adequately to claims of family violence or child abuse. There is widespread dissatisfaction with its results. Lives are being endangered by a flawed adversarial legal system which serves mainly to entrench conflict and impoverish the parties.The Family Relationship Centres do not adequately address the problem as they are unsuitable for complex cases or where family violence is involved as these cases still end up being referred to the Family Court.
The adversarial Family Court needs to be replaced with an informal, conciliatory, child inclusive tribunal designed to be accessible by individuals who self-represented. Tribunal members should include individuals with qualifications and training in domestic violence, child psychology and mediation as well as law. The Tribunal should also be endowed with investigatory functions so that it may act appropriately when confronted with claims of family violence and child abuse. A Family Tribunal should also be endowed with the power to conduct hearings into and make Family Violence and Child Care and Protection orders when required. This would enable families, including those with complex needs, to deal with only one tribunal, rather than having to navigate several courts in different jurisdictions.