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Family law reform: Full steam ahead

By December 14, 2017October 21st, 2021No Comments

By Gianna Huesch

The Attorney-General George Brandis has introduced two new family law reform Bills aimed to “ease the pressure on separating families, better protect vulnerable women and children and ensure family law matters can be dealt with swiftly and affordably, with children’s best interests prioritised”.

The first new family law reform Bill, the Family Law Amendment (Parenting Management Hearings) Bill 2017, “paves the way for the $12.7 million pilot program” which the Federal Government announced in the 2017 Budget.  In a Parent Management Hearing, self-represented parties will have their matters heard by “specialist multi-disciplinary panels” comprising experts in the fields of family law, family dispute resolution, family violence, psychology mental health and child development.  The pilot is to begin in Parramatta next year.

The second new family law reform Bill Mr Brandis has now introduced is the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2017.   One of the big difficulties for vulnerable families until now has been the need to navigate numerous state and federal courts in relation to family violence and child protection matters.  The new Bill aims to “strengthen the ability of state and territory courts to handle family law matters when those families are already before them for related family violence or child protection matters”.

Parents going through proceedings in the Family Court will also find that judges have new powers to dismiss “frivolous or vexatious complaints” such as complaints regarding children’s meals or attire, to help prevent family violence offenders from using the family law system to continue to abuse their victims.

And in a very welcome family law reform move, offenders who breach a personal protection injunction of the Family Court will be able to be charged by police rather than the onus being on victims to bring a civil application.  Mr Brandis said, “This sends a strong message to the Australian community: family violence is not a private matter, it is criminal behaviour.”

Mr Brandis has also apparently mentioned making changes to wording in the Family Law Act 1975 around the concept of “conjugal rights”, but it’s worth noting that he had already introduced the amendment regarding conjugal rights in the Family Law Amendment Bill 2015:

“In a long overdue reform, the Bill will modernise the Act so it no longer misleadingly implies that conjugal rights or obligations to perform marital services still exist in Australian law. Though the relevant provision has been redundant since a 1991 High Court decision, its repeal removes any implication that those obligations exist, and reinforces the existing right to personal autonomy.”

FURTHER READING:

Daily Telegraph

The Attorney-General’s latest press release

Our blog on the Family Law Amendment Bill 2015

Do you need legal assistance with a parenting matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 for an initial no-obligation, cost-free consultation.

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

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