18 April 2008
As head of what is now Australia's largest federal court, Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe considers that the "elephant in the room" has finally been noticed.
Speaking at the National Family Law Conference in Adelaide, Pascoe CFM noted the significant growth that the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC) has experienced, in judicial numbers and workload. There are currently 53 Federal Magistrates, up from 45 two years ago, and in some registries more than 90% of all family law matters are filed in the FMC.
It is the only federal court to regularly circuit rural and remote Australia, and his Honour said the FMC was widely recognised by the profession as at least equivalent of a State District Court.
His Honour looked forward to additional appointments to the bench, including when jurisdiction in de facto property matters is conferred on the family law courts, anticipated later this year.
Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe saidThe elephant in the room has indeed continued to grow.
The elephant it appears has also been noticed.
The Chief Federal Magistrate called on the courts to create new criteria to determine whether a case should be heard in the FMC or the Family Court.
He said the two day rule (that a matter only be heard by the FMC if it is envisaged to run for two days or less) had been formally abandoned, in part because trial length is not an indicator of complexity in family law cases. His Honour considered that complexity, being almost impossible to define in family law matters, was not an appropriate criteria to determine where a case should be heard.
The Full text of Pascoe CFM's State of the Nation address to the 13th Family Law Conference in Adelaide is attached.
His Honour,Federal Magistrate Pascoe saidIt is thus important for the Courts to work together, to develop an agreed criteria for transfer and to ensure that these criteria are strictly followed
Secretary of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia (SPCA) saidThe Council has been a supporter of the agile Federal Magistrates court in recent years and has been recommending cases be filed first in the FMC registries, prior to the one registry concept. We have seen some very good, well balanced and fair decisions from the "Feds". The FLWG site has a forum section relating to some of the judicial officers worthy of mention and that forum has a number of Federal Magistrates mentioned.
The relationship with the Federal Magistrates court has also been further enhanced in recent times through the CSNSEG (Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Group) meetings which has allowed additional interaction through Federal Magistrate Grant Reithmuller.
A recent meeting with Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe through Barry Williams and the LFAA may well bring about further improvements to the way things operate