The comments made at the weekend by Pauline Hanson about requiring couples to submit mandatory pre-marital agreements will cause far more litigation than the Family Law Courts currently handle.
“The comments are misguided at best” says Toowoomba based Accredited Family Law Specialist Andrew McCormack of Best Wilson Buckley Family Law, a specialist family law firm with offices in Toowoomba, Brisbane, and Ipswich.
“Trying to have couples agree on what is to happen if they separate in the future is not going to assist the chronically underfunded legal and court system that administers family law in Australia” said McCormack.
Mr McCormack believes the Federal Government is not committing proper resources to family law and domestic and family violence matters. “We have a situation where our current Attorney-General is not properly funding court services, taking money away from community legal services and underfunding legal aid commissions in the States and Territories” he said.
Ms Hanson, in an interview published in The Sunday Mail, has called for all couples to be required to submit pre-marital agreements to a Court for approval about how financial and parenting matters will be handled if a couple later separate.
Mr McCormack said that as the law currently stands, these types of agreements can already be formulated but they are not submitted to the Courts for approval. “These types of agreements exist but they are very technical documents that require all parties to have independent legal advice to make them effective. When a person enters this type of agreement, they are basically signing their rights away to have a Court determine a future situation. Trying to bind someone to an agreement like what Ms Hanson is suggesting isn’t the answer to family law in this country” Mr McCormack said.
Ms Hanson believes that the family law system needs an overhaul. Mr McCormack does not believe that her “solution” is practical or appropriate. “Unless you have a crystal ball that can tell you the future, you are never going to know what might happen in a relationship. People start relationships and families with the best intentions. However, problems arise, circumstances change, and unfortunately, on the statistics that I seen, violence occurs. The agreements that she is suggesting won’t fix the situation” he said.
Having judges approve relationship agreements is likely to put more of a strain on judicial resources that are already spread very thinly. “Our current Circuit Court judge sits in Toowoomba for one to two days a month. He has a least 500 to 600 current matters to deal with in his docket that come from all over the State, not just Brisbane and Toowoomba. We could have a judge her permanently and we’d still be over listing matters”.
Mr McCormack has called for more funding to deal with matters currently before the Court and a move towards the use of alternative dispute resolution like arbitration in both financial and parenting matters.
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