26 September 2023

New family law plan open for comment

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The Attorney-General’s Department is calling for feedback on a draft bill to ensure the best interests of children are prioritised and placed at the centre of the family law system.

Launching a consultation paper, the Department said the draft Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 proposed a tranche of legislative reforms to address recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).

“There have been a number of inquiries over the past few years looking into how the Family Law Act works, including a major inquiry by the ALRC in 2019,” the Department said.

“Central to the ALRC recommendations relating to children is that the most important consideration when determining living arrangements and time with parents should be what is in the best interests of the child,” it said.

“The ALRC also recommended that the legislation be simplified, noting that family law is complicated and can be confusing to understand.”

The Department said the draft Bill, open for consultation until 27 February, aimed to change the Family Law Act 1975 to address some of the most important issues raised in relation to children and parenting as an urgent priority.

It said the proposed law would focus on the individual needs of each child by making the list of ‘best interests of the child’ factors clearer for the court, clarifying when a parenting order could be changed, and making it a requirement for children’s views to be heard.

The Department said the Bill also included a separate factor to emphasise the importance of parenting arrangements that kept a connection to culture for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“This is not a new factor, but has been included as a standalone factor to ensure this consideration is prominent,” it said.

“There is also a proposed definition of member of the family that is more inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of family and kinship, which are wider than those currently recognised in the Family Law Act.”

For members of the public who wish to understand the Bill, but may not wish to engage with the level of detail in the consultation paper, the Department has released a fact sheet and FAQ document.

The Department’s 40-page Consultation Paper can be accessed at this PS News link and its 5-page fact sheet and FAQ documents at this link.

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