Image: Melbourne Family Law Registry (Courtesy Family Court of Australia)
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are responsible for delivering family law services in Australia. With the aim of having a shared strategy for the delivery of web services to clients the family law courts, along with the Federal Court, decided to establish an online portal through which a broad range of court services and information could be delivered to litigants, their legal representatives and the broader community.
Developed by the Family Court, and after an initial pilot in 2007, the Commonwealth Courts Portal (CCP) was officially launched in 2008 and has since followed an evolutionary path with continual functional enhancement and refinement. The portal has provided:
a gateway to a broad range of services and information from all the courts
and established a platform to support future growth for common services.
This cooperative approach was possible as all these courts use the (largely) same underlying case management system, Casetrack. Developed and maintained by the Family Court Casetrack is a bespoke system using an Oracle database. With CCP extensive use is made of open source software which has allowed significant savings in software licensing costs and along with agile development methodologies has delivered worthwhile improvements in the time taken to deliver web accessible functions to clients and internal staff.
With the success of CCP the family law courts rapidly moved into establishing electronic filing (eFiling) via CCP and is the direction being taken for the future with greatly expanded client self-service and electronic communications capabilities leading to the ultimate aim of having electronic only court files (ECF).
eFiling implementation commenced in 2008 and has already provided savings with money, time and resources within the courts and also affords clients time savings by being able to file 24/7 from their own homes or offices - in October 2014 the 500,000th efiled document was received via CCP.
A staged approach is being taken to eFiling development with the Family Court approaching the point of commencing to mandate electronic only interactions with the Court via eFiling later in 2015. This process is expected to span a number of years as all the associated systems and processes evolve towards the ECF, an ambitious target requiring very significant business transformation as it integrates into the Court’s daily practices and operations.