Effective community based, court ordered, lawyer assisted property conciliation

Family law and financial matters
Wednesday 25 July, 1150 – 1210


Dr Andrew Bickerdike
Relationships Australia Victoria

Relationships Australia has been contracted to provide lawyer-assisted property conciliation to the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) since 2012. The service plays an important role in assisting the FCC achieve its key deliverables, namely to provide access to justice for every Australian regardless of location or personal circumstance in an efficient and courteous manner, and to provide a simple and accessible alternative to litigation for the resolution of less complex property disputes. As the service has grown, it also assists judges on circuit to manage their lists.

This paper provides an overview of the service design and rationale for the evolution and resulting lawyer-assisted model, including the logistical and cultural challenges to implementation and the processes put in place to accelerate parties’ readiness to settle, through early preparation and exchange of lists of assets and liabilities, valuations, and other relevant information. An analysis of outcomes from over 1,300 cases already completed will be discussed including a subsample of cases that are part of a wider comparative research project evaluating outcomes and processes variables from a range of property dispute resolution processes.

The research project is also collecting data from the lawyers who are assisting their clients through the property dispute resolution process. Finally, the paper will offer some reflections on the potential for the model to be adopted more widely and how it might contribute to a reformed Australian family law service system.