A simpler and safer family law system
Today the Albanese Government is introducing legislation to reform the Family Law Act to make it simpler and safer for separating families and their children.
The current parenting framework in the Family Law Act is complex and confusing. It contains provisions which are misunderstood and, in some cases, have led to unsafe parenting arrangements.
Most separations do not end up in the court system. But for those that do, the experience can be more traumatic than it needs to be and this has a significant impact on children.
The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 puts the best interests of children at the centre of the family law system.
These reforms will see more family law matters resolved quickly and inexpensively without compromising the safety of family members.
Specifically, the Bill introduces a safer and simpler framework for making parenting orders by:
- Repealing the commonly misunderstood presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, making it clear the best interest of the child is paramount;
- Simplifying the list of factors that are considered in determining the best interests of children in parenting arrangements;
- Introducing a requirement for Independent Children's Lawyers (ICLs), when they are appointed, to meet directly with children;
- Ensuring the court considers the right of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to maintain their connection to their family, community, culture, country and language; and
- Simplifying the enforcement of parenting orders to make the consequences of non-compliance clear.
The Bill recognises the importance of a child having a relationship with both of their parents which will ensure the court continues to take this into account when making parenting orders.
Other important measures include:
- Clearer definitions of 'family' and 'relative 'as it relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of family;
- Removing the restriction of Independent Children's Lawyers in 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, ensuring children's views are heard;
- Protecting victims of family violence from systems abuse by restraining a party's ability to file repeated and unmeritorious applications without first obtaining court approval;
- Clarifying the law which prohibits the public communication of family law information so critical information can be shared and privacy protected; and
- Regulating family report writers.
The Bill brings forward the review of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Act 2021 to assess the merged court structure and ensure it is working to provide families with a safe, accessible and efficient resolution of their family law disputes. The review will now take place in 2024.
The Government recognises that family law matters, particularly those involving children, can be the most difficult of all legal disputes. I thank everyone who participated during consultation on the exposure draft of the Bill.
The Government looks forward to support from across the Parliament for this important and necessary Bill which will better assist Australian families in the family law system and ensure the best interests of children are paramount.