Judge appointment causes long court delays for families
PARENTS across the Northern Rivers are enduring drawn-out court proceedings while Lismore Family Court waits for a judge to be appointed.
The judicial appointment at Lismore is one of four family courts across the state experiencing delays according to the Law Society of NSW.
Law Society president John Eades said the large judicial caseload was a symptom of the inadequate number of judicial officers available due to Federal Government cost saving measures.
"The workloads of the courts have increased and judges are not being replaced to fill retirements or resignations," he said.
"We are hearing that four judicial appointments are pending in the Family Law Division of the Federal Circuit Court, located at Sydney, Lismore, Wollongong and Parramatta."
"Existing judges are sharing the dockets of judges who leave, with around 300-700 matters on each judge's docket in the Federal Circuit Court - this makes it impossible to finalise matters efficiently and to hear any urgent applications."
Typically a judge would have around 150 matters to deal with, Mr Eades said.
Due to the backlog, he said he had heard of delays of up to three years being experienced in some cases.
"Delays are experienced by parties when they file a matter, waiting for a final hearing date, and waiting for a judgment to be delivered," he said
"This has a serious impact on parties, particularly children, for example through their contact with parents, enrolment at school or in relation to an appeal on a relocation order."
The delays are also placing increased financial pressure on people who are already under financial strain.
"This can also have a significant financial impact for families involved in property matters, for example where valuations are out of date due to court delays," he said.
Mr Eades said the Law Society of NSW called on the Turnbull Government to address the issue and urgently replace judges when they leave or retire.