Consultation on further family law reforms
The Albanese Government has today released draft legislation for further reforms to the Family Law Act so that it is accessible, safer, simpler to use, and delivers justice and fairness for all Australian families.
For the first time this draft legislation proposes that family violence be considered as an important factor in property disputes.
This sends a clear signal that the Government understands the long-term harm caused by family violence, and the need for its consequences to be taken into account in property settlements.
Recent inquiries, including the 2019 Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry and the 2021 Parliamentary Joint Select Committee inquiry, have highlighted ongoing challenges facing the family law system, including:
- the need to be more responsive to family violence, child abuse and neglect;
- overly complex and confusing legislation that is a barrier to vulnerable users of the system;
- inconsistency in the competency and accountability of various types of family law professionals;
- hardship and financial burden caused by protracted and adversarial litigation; and
- non-compliance with disclosure obligations and property or financial orders.
The draft legislation would simplify key principles for property settlement in the Family Law Act to assist separating parties, legal representatives and the courts.
It contains a range of other measures, including:
- enhancing the court’s discretion to manage evidence where family violence is alleged or present between separating couples;
- inserting a specific duty of disclosure in property and financial matters in the Family Law Act which would apply during court proceedings or when a party is preparing to start a proceeding;
- clarifying the circumstances in which a court can order a party to contribute towards the cost of an Independent Children’s Lawyer;
- strengthening Commonwealth Information Orders to ensure the court has access to critical information about the risk of violence to a child; and
- providing a framework for the future regulation of Children’s Contact Services.
These reforms follow a number of improvements to the family law system already underway – including new regulations to ensure allegations of family violence can be taken into account in matters concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and two bills currently in the Senate to amend the Family Law Act.
This program of reform demonstrates the Albanese Government’s commitment to making the family law system safer for families, especially children.
A consultation paper released today to accompany the new draft legislation seeks feedback on the proposed amendments and will help improve the drafting and implementation of the reforms.
Submissions on the draft legislation are due on 10 November 2023.
Information on how to make a submission is available at Exposure Draft: Family Law Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023 – Attorney-General’s Department consultation hub.