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ALRC Issues Paper for family law review released

By March 20, 2018October 26th, 2021No Comments

Your chance to have your say on the Family Court system!

If you have ever wanted to become involved in helping reform the family law system, now is your chance to do so. The  Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has published an Issues Paper for consideration by all.

Members of the public are now able to give their opinions and information about their own experiences of the family law system, which can be done in a confidential manner. These will be considered along with those of various groups including family law committees of law societies around Australia, groups lobbying for men’s and father’s rights, groups lobbying for the protection of victims of family violence, just to name a few.

Last year, the Turnbull Government tasked the ALRC with examining the spectrum of issues involved in reforming the family law system, which has been heavily criticised over a number of years.  Critics—from parents to practitioners to academics–have regularly slammed the family law system as dysfunctionally slow, expensive and out of touch with modern needs.

The Family Law Act was introduced over forty years ago, and in the time since, our society has undergone massive changes, including to the diversity of family structures, and the greater awareness of the scourge of family violence.  It is therefore hoped that reviewing the family law system and the Family Law Act will result in a vastly improved experience for Australians, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

The ALRC Issues Paper asks some big questions including:

  • What can be done to improve access and engagement with the family law system?
  • What changes could be made to provisions in the legislation to improve outcomes?
  • What can be done to improve dispute resolution processes?
  • How can children’s participation in the system be improved?
  • What changes could be made to improve practitioners’ and judicial officers’ professional skills and wellbeing?
  • How can transparency and accountability be improved, and better governance established to improve public confidence?

Here at Alliance, we will be taking a closer look at the detailed material contained in the ALRC Issues Paper over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, The Australian has provided a summary of the ALRC Issues Paper’s options for change. The newspaper says the proposals include the possibility for alternative dispute resolution processes to be made compulsory for financial disputes, not just parenting ones, and whether a new system for resolving disputes over small property claims should be created to avoid propelling couples with few assets through the currently expensive litigation system.

The ALRC Issues Paper also considers whether the Family Law Act should be extended to apply to all children including those born via surrogacy and assisted conception processes, and how children’s voices can be better heard. Involving extended family members in litigation that pertains to parents with complex needs (for example mental health problems and alcohol and drug abuse problems) is also discussed in the ALRC Issues Paper.

Reforming Binding Financial Agreements is up for discussion, as is “whether changes are needed to ensure the family law system cannot be misused by individuals who try to instigate multiple court proceedings, make repeated notifications to child protection agencies or drag out litigation as a form of abuse”.

One of the ALRC Issues Paper proposals bound to be most controversial is the possibility of removing the presumption for equal shared care which was introduced by the Howard Government in 1996. The Australian argues the ALRC review thereby “risks reigniting the bitter divisions between women’s groups and father’s groups”.  The presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility (except in cases involving abuse or violence) requires courts to consider whether equal time with each parent is in a child’s best interests.  Says the newspaper, one of the ALRC Issues Paper reform options “asks whether the presumption should be removed, citing concerns it has created confusion among parents, added complexity to litigation and contributed to an escalation of conflict in some cases where parents must make decisions jointly”.

Source: The Australian.

You can access the ALRC paper here.

And you can respond and make submissions until May 7 here.

Do you need assistance with a family law matter? 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.


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