Watts McCray Lawyers’ Annual CLE by the Sea 2018

The Annual CLE by the Sea was held by Watts McCray Lawyers at the Terrigal Surf Club on Thursday 5 April 2018. For the 4th year running, the Honourable David Collier, former Justice of Family Court of Australia chaired the event.

His Honour Justice Paul Le Gay Brereton AM RFD, NSW Supreme Court addressed the audience on ‘The Search for the Forever Family – Issues and Trends in Out-of-Home Care Adoption’. Justice Brereton discussed the adoption case load of the Supreme Court and noted that the Supreme Court of New South Wales handles more adoptions than all other courts in Australia together. His Honour discussed proposals from the recent discussion paper from the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) which included proposed amendments to the Adoption Act 2000. Justice Brereton noted the uninformed commentary that had occurred recently in the media in relation to adoption of Aboriginal children and outlined the Aboriginal placement principles provided for in the Act and highlighted some of the issues with the current legislation in this area.

Professor Cameron Stewart from Sydney Law School generated debate amongst the audience with his talk on ‘Children and Consent to Medical Treatment post Re Kelvin’ which focused on the topic of consent and the Family Court’s role in relation to children with gender dysphoria. Professor Stewart argued that the ratio of Marion’s Case*1 has been a disaster due to the false distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic treatment. Professor Stewart noted the pattern of contradictory cases which had emerged in the Family Court since Marion’s Case, arguing that decisions about whether court authorisation of medical treatment for children was mandatory had more to do with a general feeling of judicial unease, rather than a rational employment of the therapeutic/non-therapeutic distinction. Professor Stewart noted the explosion of litigation that has occurred in the Family Court since Marion’s Case and Re Jamie*2 stating that in all these cases the teenagers seeking treatment were found to be competent and were having to go through expensive court proceedings to access health care. Limitations of the Re Kelvin*3 decision were discussed noting that court authorisation is still required for Stage 3 treatment (surgical intervention).

Ms Suzanne Delbridge discussed ‘Forensic Accounting Experts in Family Law Matters’ and provided useful guidelines for practitioners when instructing experts including advice on the letter of instruction and post report. Ms Delbridge raised the very interesting question of why practitioners don’t make more use of Rule 15.64 which allows for conferences with the single expert within 21 days of the valuation report being issued.

The Honourable Giles Coakes engaged the audience with his session on Mediation: Resolution with Less Tears which helped practitioners consider how to prepare for a mediation and highlighted the benefits and process of mediation. Mr Coakes noted the need for practitioners to focus on alternative dispute resolution where possible especially given the ongoing pressures on the Court system and the significant resourcing issues in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

The CLE by the Sea was organised by Watts McCray Lawyers Erina office and attended by solicitors and barristers from the Central Coast, Newcastle and Sydney region.

Watts McCray Lawyers are pleased to have had the opportunity to bring together members of the judiciary, former judiciary and experts to share their knowledge and wisdom with the community of family law practitioners on the Central Coast.

1. Secretary, Department of Health and Community Services v JWB and SMB (Marion’s Case) (1992) 175 CLR 218.
2. Re Jamie (2013) 50 Fam LR 369.
3. Re Kelvin [2017] FamCAFC 258.

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