Greedy lawyers could be sent the court bill
FAMILY Court staff want to punish greedy lawyers who cash in on drawn-out divorces by sabotaging court hearings.
Lawyers who "exacerbate conflict'' should be forced to personally pay their clients' legal costs and the rival side's legal bill, the Community and Public Sector Union has told the Federal Government's family law review.
The CPSU says that judges should order "personal costs'' against shonky solicitors, and refer them to legal professional bodies for sanctions.
"Courts staff recommend a mechanism for openly reporting professionals' behaviour seen to exacerbate conflict between the parties,'' it has told the Australian Law Reform Commission review.
The CPSU, which represents court registrars and staff, says legal costs in divorce cases should be capped to a set percentage of a couple's assets.
News Queensland has revealed how a Queensland woman spent $2 million on legal fees in a 15-year divorce settlement.
CPSU official Emma Groube said that some lawyers who billed by the hour deliberately dragged out "messy'' family law disputes.
"One of the ways to make (disputes) faster and better for children and families is that lawyers need to be prepared to talk about a matter when it's listed, rather than adjourn the matter,'' she told The Courier-Mail.
"When matters are adjourned because lawyers don't have documents ready, it costs the client, it costs the court and it slows down the whole process. That's not fair for anyone.''
The CPSU also wants penalties for swearing at judges or staff.
Ms Groube said violent and abusive litigants had forced some court staff to take stress or sick leave.
Ms Groube said an Independent Commission Against Corruption should be established to hear complaints against judges, court staff or lawyers.
"We think it would provide the community with an extra layer of assurance about the courts and the judiciary,'' she said.
The CPSU has told the government review that Family Court and Federal Circuit Court funding cuts are creating delays in divorce hearings, which can take years to go to trial.
In January, the Turnbull government will merge both courts to create a single Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.