The Australian Law Reform Commission released its review of the family law system in March 2019. The review commenced in 2017 in light of the profound social changes that have occurred over the past 40 years, to ensure that Australia’s family law system is meeting families’ needs and contemporary Australia.
The review made 60 different recommendations for change to the current system. The changes, if implemented, will create a vastly different system to the current system which was created when the Family Law Act 1975 commenced operation in 1976.
The key recommendations are:
- That the government considers establishing State and Territory Family Courts to exercise jurisdiction under the Family Law Act in relation to family law matters as well as in relation to Child Protection and Family Violence jurisdiction.
- That the factors to be considered when assessing parenting arrangements that promote the best interest of the child be simplified and that the mandatory consideration of particular living arrangements be repealed.
- That the definition of “member of the family” be amended to include any aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander concept of family relevant in the circumstances of the case.
- That there be a clearer and simplified approach to property division, including a presumption that the parties made equal contribution to the relationship.
- That the relevant date to assess the value of the assets and liabilities be the date of separation rather than the date of the property settlement, which is currently the case, unless the interest of justice requires otherwise.
- That there be a presumption that the combined superannuation of the parties accrue during the relationship will be equally divided.
- That the Family Law Act require parties to take genuine steps to resolve their property matter prior to filing a Court Application. That the Act prevent the Court from hearing an Application unless parties have lodged a “genuine steps statement”.
- That the Family Law Act be amended to provide a duty on parties and their lawyers to cooperate to facilitate the just resolution of disputes as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible and with the least acrimony, to minimise harm to children and their families. That there be cost consequences for parties who do not comply.
- That the Family Law Act be amended to provide measures to ensure that parties understand final parenting orders.
- That the Family Law Act be redrafted to make it simpler and easier to understand.
- That the government work with family relationship centres to develop services including financial counselling, mediation and property matters, legally assisted dispute resolution and children’s contact services.
If implemented, these changes will have major impact on the way the family law system operates. A copy of the full report can be found at:
Please contact one of our experienced family lawyers if you have any queries in relation to the ALRC review.