Family Law Reform Update

On 11 April 2019, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released its report into Family Law Reform entitled ‘Family Law for the Future: An Inquiry into the Family Law System’.

The Report is a culmination of work conducted by the ALRC following a direction of the former Attorney General George Brandis QC to refer the ALRC to make inquiry and provide report into necessary or desirable reform of the current Family Law System, “paving the way for long term fundamental reform to better meet the needs of modern Australian families.”

The recommendations

The Report makes 60 recommendations, ranging from a presumption of equal property contributions to more controversially, establishing state Family Courts in other Australian jurisdictions to better synthesise jurisdiction issues such as children in state care.

The ALRC summary of the Report’s broad recommendations are:

  1. Closing the jurisdictional gap – Stop children falling through the gaps between the federal family law courts, the state and territory child protection systems and the state and territory responses to family violence. Family law disputes returned to the states and territories and the federal family courts eventually abolished.
  2. Children’s orders – Simplify the factors to be considered when determining living arrangements that promote a child’s best interests. Remove mandatory consideration of particular living arrangements.
  3. Stricter case management – Clearer consequences for couples and their advisors if they don’t seek to resolve disputes as quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently as possible, and with the least acrimony.
  4. Compliance with children’s orders – Improve understanding of orders through greater engagement with family consultants and place limits on interim appeals.
  5. Simpler property division – Include a starting position that separated couples made equal contributions during the relationship.
  6. Encourage amicable dispute resolution – Increase the proportion of family law matters that are dealt with through alternatives such as FDR (Family Dispute Resolution) and LADR (Legally Assisted Dispute Resolution).
  7. Legislative simplification – Redraft the Family Law Act to make it easier to understand the law.

More reading

The above recommendations are from the brochure Family Law for the Future ALRC Recommendations: https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/alrc_recommendation_brochure_final.pdf

The Full Report is available at: https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/alrc_report_135.pdf

The Summary Report is available at: https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/alrc_report_135_summary_report_web_0.pdf