- In April the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court announced the establishment of a new specialist National Arbitration List.
- The Courts support the wider use of arbitration in family property matters as a quicker and more affordable alternative to continuing to trial.
- Family lawyers have an obligation to discuss dispute resolution options with their clients. This article provides number of suggestions about how best to frame such a conversation.
On 16 April this year, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia announced the creation of a new specialist National Arbitration List. Chief Justice Alstergren said: ‘The Courts have long supported the use of alternative dispute resolution as a quicker and more affordable option for litigants to resolve their disputes, rather than continuing to trial’ and went on to declare that ‘the introduction of the Arbitration List will ensure consistency and timeliness and the determination of such applications will be given considered priority’. His Honour also noted that, while ‘arbitration has traditionally and commonly been used in commercial litigation, [the Family and Federal Circuit courts] are very keen to support the wider use of arbitration in family law for property matters.’
As best as can be ascertained, not less than 141 cases had been referred to arbitration by the Judges of the Federal Circuit Court as at 31 January this year.
The National Arbitration list in a nutshell
The new list will be managed by dedicated National Arbitration Judges – Justice Wilson in the Family Court, Judge Harman in the Federal Circuit Court and Justice Strickland is the coordinating Appeals Judge for Arbitration Appeals. All matters referred to arbitration will be placed in this National Arbitration List. Any application for interim orders sought to facilitate the arbitration by arbitrators or parties will be dealt with by the relevant National Arbitration Judge electronically. Applications for registration of arbitral awards issued by arbitrators will be dealt with by the same National Arbitration Judge. Similarly, applications for review of an arbitral award will be conducted by the relevant National Arbitration Judge.