Lawyers in NSW are being urged to make more effort to see family law disputes resolved by mediation amid “horrendous delays” in family law courts.

NSW Law Society president Doug Humphreys said the organisation was “campaigning hard for the appointment of more judges to ease the significant delays and backlog of cases” in family law courts.

“Regrettably, the problem is so great that even if more judges were appointed, there could still be unacceptable delays for many families already in the system,” he said in a message sent on Monday to the state’s 32,000 lawyers.

He urged solicitors to achieve better outcomes by encouraging their clients to use alternate dispute resolution, including the Family Law Settlement Service, a joint initiative of the courts, bar association and law society to give parties access to expert ­mediators.

His message comes after Federal Court judge Robert Benjamin criticised the “obscenely high legal costs” charged by family lawyers and an apparent “win at all costs, concede little or ­nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole” approach to litigation.

Attorney-General Christian Porter also recently told The Australian that three-year delays were “not a good outcome for any family”, but sometimes litigants and their lawyers were to blame for cases dragging on for so long.

Mr Humphreys told The Australian that, as officers of the court, solicitors had a duty to “explore all avenues”, including mediation, rather than just blindly following their clients’ instructions to continue litigating.

He said the benefits of medi­ation for clients were undoubted, and helped them “avoid the hefty costs, uncertainty and delays of prolonged court action”.

“These sort of initiatives need to be understood as the profession … trying to solve matters quickly, efficiently, cheaply and for the benefit of the parties.”

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Avatar for Ben


Perhaps if the courts were more inclined to make adverse costs orders against parties who willfully disobey directions and take unreasonable positions then it might make settlements more likely.

They do mediate. Most cases are settled. But there is always the couple who will never settle and require a judicial decision. Believe me when I say that we make more money in settling cases than in going to trial, but we must follow instructions regardless of the advice we give.
Avatar for Richard


If your client, after being properly advised, instructs you to keep litigating then you do so, or tell the client you can no longer act for her, with all that entails.