The pros and cons of the proposed family law reforms – Lawyers Weekly

Last Wednesday (29 March), Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC released two statements announcing the nature of the legislative reform the Albanese government plans to make to The Family Law Act.

The reforms aim to make separations safer for families and their children.

The first set of amendments is set to simplify the legislation, in response to issues that have arisen regarding the complexity of the act, leading to it being misunderstood in ways that have led to unsafe parenting arrangements:

These include but are not limited to:

  • Repealing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility;
  • Simplifying the list of factors that are considered in determining the best interests of children in parenting arrangements;
  • Introducing requirements for Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs);
  • 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 second set of amendments aims to improve access to vital information sharing from state and territory family violence and child protection systems during proceedings. These include:

  • Introducing two new information-sharing orders for courts to quickly seek information from police and child protection agencies about family violence, abuse and neglect;
  • Ensuring these orders are available at any point during proceedings; and
  • Increasing protections to ensure sensitive information is disclosed safely

Mr Peleg highlighted where the amendments fall short: “The new definition of the principle of the best interests of the child falls short of international children’s rights law standards and best practices in other countries, despite what the government claims.”

“While it makes children’s views an inherent part of the best interests analysis, which is an improvement comparing to the law today that makes it a potential element only, the new law is drafted in passive tone, asking the court to consider ‘any views expressed by the child’ instead of using active voice requiring the court to ascertain the views of children.”

Source: The pros and cons of the proposed family law reforms – Lawyers Weekly

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