Australia’s family law overhaul a step closer as inquiry endorses focus on child’s best interest | Law (Australia) | The Guardian

A dramatic overhaul of the nation’s family laws which puts more focus on a child’s best interests than on shared parental responsibility, is set to go ahead.

A multi-partisan Senate committee has considered amendments to the Family Law Act and, while it is calling for further changes, overall it wants the bill passed.

The centrepiece of the proposed legislation is the repeal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility – often misinterpreted as a presumption of equal shared parental time.

The committee found that “a history of family violence, abuse and neglect as a general consideration in determining what is in the child’s best interests” was critical, and that language and concepts used to “better recognise and protect the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to enjoy their culture” should be included.

There should also be more consideration of the child’s perspective, including if a child objects to a return order under The Hague convention on child abduction. The convention was put in place to stop non-custodial parents abducting children, but has been misused against victims fleeing domestic violence with their children.

The committee also recommended that safeguards be introduced to stop alleged perpetrators misusing subpoenas to gain access to their alleged victims’ personal information, including counselling notes, medical files and home addresses.

The misuse of subpoenas is part of a broader problem known as legal systems abuse, where alleged domestic violence perpetrators representing themselves in family court drag out litigation, introduce vexatious applications and force the victim-survivor to repeatedly be in the same venue as their abuser,

There are concerns men’s rights activists are coaching unrepresented parties on ways to exploit court processes.

The chief executive officer of Single Mother Families Australia, Terese Edwards, said legal systems abuse also extended to child support payments, pointing to online forums advising men how to minimise their payments.

[Ed: Unfortunately without sex specific language and a presumption in favour of mothers who are primary caregivers, any safeguards will continue to be used  against women rather than for the protection of mother and child.]

Source: Australia’s family law overhaul a step closer as inquiry endorses focus on child’s best interest | Law (Australia) | The Guardian

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