Parliament passes landmark family law reforms

These new laws ensure a simpler, safer, and more accessible family law system

Parliament passes landmark family law reforms

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced that parliament has passed two landmark legislations to simplify and enhance the country's family law system.

Family Law Amendment Bull

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 ensures children's best interests are at the centre of all parenting decisions made inside or outside the courtroom. It is expected to make the system easier to navigate.

The amendments repealed the presumption of 'equal shared parental responsibility' provisions in the Family Law Act 1975. In 2017, a bipartisan parliamentary committee found that these provisions were confusing, that they failed to prioritise the safety of children and that they were being improperly applied in a way that put children at risk. These findings are consistent with the overwhelming consensus of family law experts.

Under the new laws, parenting decisions will be based solely on the child's best interests. Additionally, the Independent Children's Lawyers must now meet directly with children. The legislation also grants expanded powers to safeguard parties and children from the negative impacts of prolonged and adversarial legal battles and inclusive definitions of 'member of the family' reflective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and kinship concepts. The new laws will also ensure that children's voices are heard more efficiently in matters under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Family Law Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2023

The passage of the Family Law Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2023 empowers courts with access to the complete picture of family safety risks to prioritise the safety of children and families, particularly when there is a risk of child abuse, neglect or family violence.

The bill establishes two new information-sharing orders to allow courts to directly and quickly seek information from police, child protection and firearms agencies about family violence, child abuse and neglect that could place children at risk. The bill also allows a court to make these orders at any point during proceedings, ensuring that information is accurate and up-to-date.

The bills are informed by expert recommendations and the Australian Law Reform Commission's 2019 report. The government has also released for consultation an exposure draft of a second Family Law Bill to improve the family law system further.

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