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Family Law Act and family law inquiry—an update

By May 19, 2020November 11th, 2021No Comments

Family Law Act: With all that’s been going on surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the Government’s family law inquiry which was due to be completed in October this year has been similarly put on hold.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the family law inquiry’s Joint Select Committee has had to postpone its upcoming hearings in Tasmania, Victoria, SA, NT and WA which had been scheduled to run until June. In the current circumstances it’s hard to see how the Committee will report back its findings by the original due date.

The inquiry had been gearing up to cause a little controversy earlier this year, with the Law Council withdrawing its support after first having supported the inquiry. The Law Council has now roundly criticised the inquiry, suggesting it is “being used for political purposes to undermine domestic violence claims made by women and thereby putting vulnerable families at further risk by inciting hatred and excusing domestic violence”.

The controversial inquiry may see changes made yet to our Family Law Act 1975 and as such the outcome is eagerly anticipated in the industry.

The Family Law Act has already been subject of numerous inquiries and reviews since its inception, and there have been over 100 amendments to the legislation in that time.

In 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission conducted a comprehensive review of the Family Law Act and it delivered 60 recommendations in its report last year. The Government has not yet addressed the ALRC recommendations. ALRC principal legal officer Micheil Paton told the ABC:

“Recommendation number one was that states and territories should establish specialist family law courts, as already exists in Western Australia, and that ultimately federal family courts like the Family Court of Australia should be abolished. So in a sense, reversing the effect of the Family Law Act 1975, which created this one national court.”

Mr Paton said the main reason for the recommendation is the “incredible increase” in family violence cases and child protection issues.

The Family Law Act is the main federal law on matters involving divorce, property settlement after marriage breakdown or de facto relationship breakdown, spouse maintenance for a party to a marriage, de facto partner maintenance and issues relating to parenting arrangements after separation.  The Family Law Act is supplemented by the Family Law Rules 2004, which handle practice and procedures of the courts.

Now, we await the outcome of the new family law inquiry and any new potential amendments to the Family Law Act.  The credibility of the inquiry will depend on how much it draws on evidence-based reality, not political rhetoric and random anecdotal claims.

And evidence is being gathered on issues that are relevant to the inquiry including family violence which will hopefully feed into a more insightful inquiry. For example, a new research project looking at intimate partner homicides has just been launched by the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety.

The research hopes to identify patterns of behaviour, potential warning signs, and possible points of intervention. It will examine the enforcement of parenting orders in the family courts and reasons for non-compliance.  The subject of family violence is inextricably linked with the court system, as a disproportionate number of cases that end up in the family courts involve complex issues such as family violence.

Stay tuned…we will keep you posted on developments relating to the family law inquiry and any changes to the Family Law Act.

For the family court’s advice on the family law legislation in this country, you can see this page.

Do you need family law help? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.

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