De facto couples embroiled in property disputes could be pushed to the back of a long waiting list at the WA Family Court because of a lack of funding for the ever-increasing workload, Chief Judge Stephen Thackray has warned.
The rising number of cases involving property settlement disputes between de facto couples and a failure to fund the jurisdiction since it was set up in 2002 have been highlighted by Justice Thackray in the court's 2010-2011 annual review.
"All requests to government for additional resources to allow the court to manage the de facto property jurisdiction have thus far proven unsuccessful," Justice Thackray said in the review, which was published yesterday
"Unless resources are made available to deal with this jurisdiction, it may become necessary to give priority to matters for which funding has been provided."
The report reveals de facto cases account for 25 per cent of applications to the court seeking property orders. De facto cases also accounted for 14 per cent of trial days last financial year, compared with 6.5 per cent in 2006-2007.
At the end of June last year, the average time to trial in the court was 99 weeks, but statistics given to _The West Australian _last week show the delay at the end of March was 102.5 weeks. The report said a significant factor in the delay was the court taking on the de facto property jurisdiction 10 years ago without any increase in judicial resources.
A spokeswoman for Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said all other States had referred their powers for de facto cases to the Commonwealth but WA chose to maintain a separate court so it was a State funding responsibility.
But Mr Porter said Family Court funding was overwhelmingly the responsibility of the Commonwealth, despite WA retaining power for de facto matters.
"The Commonwealth is starving the WA Family Court of funding as a means of trying to get WA to abolish its separate family law jurisdiction," he said. "We are trying to help the court as part of the Budget in the de facto area and announcements will be made shortly."