Australia’s family law system faces an overhaul after the government unveiled an inquiry aimed at fixing what it believes is a dysfunctional method of dealing with family breakdown.
The terms of reference indicate that the government has lost faith in the adversarial system of resolving family law disputes and wants the inquiry to look for alternatives in order to save money and ease the trauma on children.
Attorney-General George Brandis said there was a “broad consensus that the system is now in many ways dysfunctional and a comprehensive overhaul is needed”.
“The government has listened to the many Australians who have been involved in the system and who say that they want options to help them resolve disputes faster, more simply, with less conflict,” Senator Brandis said.
Instead of subjecting children to multiple hearings after family breakdowns, the government wants the inquiry to consider the possibility of a single set of proceedings to deal with children’s issues wherever this is possible.
The terms of reference, which have been drawn up by Senator Brandis, ask the inquiry to consider whether adversarial hearings are the best way of supporting the safety of families and resolving matters in the best interests of children.
This inquiry, which will be run by the Australian Law Reform Commission, will also examine the financial pressure on the Family Court, which is at a crisis point, according to the Law Council of Australia.
The inquiry will be conducted by Helen Rhoades, a professor of law at Melbourne University and a former chair of the Family Law Council. She has been asked to report by March 31, 2019.
We will await with interest the outcome of the overhaul and keep our clients informed of any changes that are announced.