Following its response last week to the Joint Select Committee Family Law Inquiry, the federal government has released draft legislation which it says will make the Family Law Act “simpler and safer” for separating families and their children.
“The government is committed to restoring the family law system so that it is accessible, safer, and simpler to use,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC said.
“This includes addressing the backlog of recommendations from family law inquiries under the former Government, such as the reports of the Joint Select Committee and Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2019 report, Family Law for the Future.”
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth added that changes to the family law system would ensure the welfare of victim-survivors of family violence, including children, was paramount.
“It is critical that the family law system protects those at risk of violence – including children and young people – who are victims and survivors of family violence in their own right,” she said.
“We know that long, complicated and adversarial court proceedings can have negative effects on the health and wellbeing of people who are already in a fragile emotional state dealing with the breakdown of a relationship – including children.”
Now, the A-G’s Department has released its draft legislation to update the Family Law Act, which purports to address the “extensive court delays, protracted litigation, inaccessible support services and inadequate protection for people at risk of family violence” that it says has “dogged” the family law system.
The draft Family Law Amendment Bill intends to place the best interests of children “at the centre” of the family law system.
“Currently, custody arrangements require the court to consider two primary factors and thirteen additional factors; and be guided by four objects, five principles and one presumption. The proposed reforms replace these with six simple ‘best interests’ factors for courts to decide what the best parenting arrangements are for each child,” a statement from Mr Dreyfus reads.
“Recent inquiries have shown that the presumption of ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ provisions are widely misunderstood, causing prolonged litigation and conflict. The draft legislation repeals these provisions, making clear that the best interests of children are paramount.”