In this year’s budget, it was announced that the Family Law Act is to undergo major review. The investigations into possible reforms were due to commence on 1 October.
Over the years, there have been many changes to the Act, some of which have been significant. However, this is the first time that the whole Act has been comprehensively reviewed since it commenced in 1976.
The background for the reforms are in part due to:
- the lengthy and costly delays in having a matter listed for hearing in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court;
- importance of protecting the needs of children; and
- concerns that victims of domestic violence are overlooked by the system.
Attorney-General George Brandis labelled the review as “necessary and long-overdue”.
Australian families are arguably not the same today as they were back in 1976, so it is important that the Act is reviewed to ensure it stays current with the needs of families.
In addition, many practitioners have now turned their focus to resolving disputes by mediation and other methods of alternate dispute resolution. This assists parties to resolve their disputes more quickly and at less cost, which decreases pressures on the Courts.
Many organisations cautiously welcome the review. One of those organisations, the Law Council of Australia, warns that continued funding will be necessary to see any proposed reform implemented.
The Labor Government, while supportive of the review, also claims that urgent action needs to be taken to protect victims of domestic violence prior to the review being finalised. Whether interim action will be taken to protect victims of domestic violence remains to be determined.
Consultation documents will be produced as part of the review for various stakeholders, including family relationship and support groups, health services and other members of the community, to comment on.
The review is due to be completed by March 2019.