Elements of TJ have already been introduced over the years. We already have good structures and some of our family practitioners have been practising in a TJ inclined fashion.
Going forward –
Adopting a common language
We should adopt a common language to consolidate our past efforts and sharpen the way forward. For example, when a judge takes the time to explain the trial process to a self-represented litigant or when a lawyer helps the client understand that divorce pleadings and affidavits should not be drafted in a way that is deliberately provocative to the receiving party.
Each of us has an important part to play in our different roles. TJ can help us broaden our field of inquiry to be more mindful and intentional of the therapeutic and non-therapeutic effects of our processes and actions, to seek to consider the underlying problems faced by the parties and to address them.
Piloting a multi-disciplinary team approach in the FJC
FJC is piloting a multi-disciplinary team approach, which triages suitable cases to a single team comprising of hearing judges, a judge-mediator, court family specialists and a case manager. The objective is to provide a judge-led space incorporating multi-disciplinary elements at an earlier stage of proceedings, before matters escalate and become unnecessarily acrimonious. Within that space, this team will work together to seek to provide holistic outcomes for the family. It is hoped that even when adjudication is necessary, greater support for the families is brought in earlier to provide sustainable solutions that better address the consequences of family breakdown.
This approach requires a concerted effort between the court, lawyers, court users and specialist services within the community. Each needs to be sensitised to the new lens through which a case is being viewed and be ready to coordinate efforts more effectively to achieve lasting outcomes.
Focusing on the people in the family justice system
Applying the TJ lens, all the family justice professionals involved have to be aware that what they do and say could have “therapeutic” or “anti-therapeutic” consequences on the parties, and the family’s ability to deal with root causes of family conflict.
TJ calls for an awakening of our consciousness and consciences as judges, court staff, family law practitioners, psychologists and counsellors to embrace these values and to encourage participants to be fully engaged in solving problems that required durable solutions.
Both the Court and the lawyers will undergo specialised training and build on specialist capacities to enable them to take on the unique problem-solving role of a family judge and the family practitioner.