Changes to family law system on the cards

The government has released draft proposals to change the Family Court system.

The government has released draft proposals to change the Family Court system. Photo: AAP

Australia’s family law system is set to be simplified as part of a wide-ranging overhaul.

The federal government released draft legislation of the family law changes on Monday, which will aim to address large court delays and access to support services.

Under the proposed changes, custody arrangements will be determined by six ‘best-interest factors’ for the child, including child safety, a child’s development needs as well as the preferences of the child themself.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the factors for best interests would be streamlined in order to make the system easier for the courts and for parents.

“Currently, custody arrangements require the court to consider two primary factor and 13 additional factors and be guided by four objects, five principles and one presumption,” Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.

“These long overdue proposed reforms replace the often confusing law around parenting arrangement with a simpler child-focused framework that will guide parents who can agree on their own post-separation parenting arrangements.”

The draft laws follow an inquiry carried out by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2019, as well as parliamentary probe into the issue in 2021.

The proposed changes will also remove the presumption of ‘equal shared parental responsibility’, due to inquiries concluding that the measure was misunderstood.

The presumption meant parents were required to consult with each other when making long-term decisions, but was often misinterpreted as creating a right to an equal amount of shared time with children.

The laws will also introduce a requirement for independent children’s lawyers to meet with children to make sure their view points were considered when the court makes it decision.

Under the current laws, the independent lawyers may only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Courts will also be provided with greater powers to protect affected parties and children from protracted and adversarial litigation
The changes also propose a definition of what is a member of the family, that would be inclusive of Indigenous concepts of family and kinship.

Public submissions on the draft bill are open until February 27.


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