Debra began practising in family law over thirty years ago in Canberra. She quickly became recognised as a leader in the field. She became the first female partner of a large Canberra firm at a very young age and gained an excellent professional reputation. This was recognised by her appointments to the ACT Law Society Family Law Committee, the Gender Equity Committee, the Judiciary and Court Process Committee the Access to Justice Committee and the Professional Indemnity Insurance Committees. Debra was a pioneer in commencing dialogue with Women’s Refuges in Canberra and she worked closely with the Domestic Violence Crisis Service. Debra continues this commitment to the community today by volunteering at the Women’s Legal Centre where she provides free legal advice.
After living in France with her family for more than five years, an experience she feels broadened her perspectives on life, she returned to Canberra and was appointed in 2005 to the quasi-judicial role of Registrar of the Family Court and later also the Federal Circuit Court, Canberra. She was well regarded and respected in this role by Judges, peers and colleagues. She became Chair of the Legal Aid Office Independent Childrens Lawyers Committee which oversees the appointment of lawyers representing children. Debra continued her appointment as Registrar until joining the Watts McCray team as an equity partner in February 2015.
Debra has over 20 years experience in Mediation. After completing training in the early 90’s in Mediation and Arbitration she was one of the successful early pioneers in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Canberra. Furthermore, during her time as a Registrar, Debra was the appointed Court mediator for thousands of mediations for de facto and married couples going through the process of relationship change. She established an excellent reputation as a skilled and accomplished mediator and conciliator. She regularly assisted people to mutually agree to resolve their Court disputes without having to go through a lengthy court trial. She is a Nationally Accredited Mediator (MSB) and a member of the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators. Debra accepts referrals for private mediations as well as individual representation in traditional negotiation. Debra is also an Accredited Collaborative Law Practitioner.
Collaborative law and negotiation works on the understanding that each party trusts and respects one another and a final settlement is achieved between the parties out of Court, with assistance as required from their lawyers and other experts such as accountants or psychologists.
Bringing this invaluable experience as a Registrar to Watts McCray, Debra has the skills to provide clients with sound, practical advice about family law issues and to tailor service to meet their specific needs. She guides her clients through the process maze and the often difficult circumstances of relationship change.
Family law matters and relationship breakdown can be complex. Debra takes the time to understand her clients and what they want to achieve. Her years of experience as a solicitor; living abroad; raising a large family and her skills as a Registrar combine to enable her to give clients sensible, fair solutions and how to get there.