Today marks exactly 20 years since I was admitted as a lawyer in NSW.
After trying out various areas of law while studying, both at home and overseas, I knew that I wanted to specialise in family law. And so I did, right from the very start of my career as a lawyer.
So much has changed in the last 20 years, but also so much has stayed the same.
Still the same, in a nutshell, is the turmoil people face around any issue associated with family law.
People, even with the best of intentions, are imperfect, and often need thoughtful help to navigate their way around the issues.
The huge variety of people and families is the same, with an accompanying huge variety of problems and solutions. So there is never a dull day in family law!
So what are the differences?
Sadly the biggest difference is in the Court resources. Back early in my career, cases that needed to could get into court quickly and have the issue dealt with efficiently. While the motivation of all involved, including Judges, might still be the same, the sheer pressure under which they work has led to significant delays in the Court system. For example, where someone has breached parenting orders, previously this could have been properly considered in a Contravention Application by a Judge quite quickly before things went well off the rails. Unfortunately for all involved, this is now rarely the case.
Technology and access to information. Mostly this is a great thing!
A positive “side effect” perhaps of delays is the even greater focus on alternative dispute resolution. Collaborative law wasn’t even in Australia when I was admitted, mediation happened but not often and arbitration was unheard of (despite the legislation). Nowadays all of these are routinely considered as options to help people find a resolution as quickly and equitably as possible. Not all of the options are right for each person or family, but to have these options as part of our standard arsenal provides so much for troubled families.