The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023, a significant legislative reform, has been enacted with the aim of amending the Family Law Act 1975 to prioritise and safeguard the best interests of children within the family law system. This blog post delves into the core amendments and their potential impact on families navigating the legal landscape in Australia.
Core Amendments provided by the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023:
The key amendments brought about by the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 are outlined below:
Parenting Order Framework:
The bill refines the list of 'best interests' factors, aiding courts in making more nuanced decisions regarding parenting orders.
It removes the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, along with the related equal time and substantial and significant time provisions, offering a more realistic framework for diverse family situations.
Compliance and Enforcement:
Provisions related to compliance with, and enforcement of, parenting orders have been redrafted to ensure clarity and effectiveness.
Inclusivity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultures:
Definitions relating to the concept of ‘family’ have been amended to be more inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and traditions.
Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs):
The bill permits the appointment of ICLs in matters brought under the Hague Convention and mandates ICLs to meet with a child and give them an opportunity to express a view, ensuring that the child’s voice is heard in proceedings impacting them.
Professional Standards and Harmful Proceedings Orders:
The bill introduces standards and requirements for professionals who prepare family reports and introduces ‘harmful proceedings orders’ aimed at curbing vexatious litigations and ensuring the overarching purpose of family law practice and procedure is upheld.
Other consequential amendments have been made to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021, including delegation of certain powers to registrars of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and advancing the review of the Act by two years.
Implications for Clients:
The amendments usher in a more child-centric approach within the family law system, which could potentially alter the trajectory of many family law cases. The removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, for instance, might necessitate a more thorough examination of each parent’s ability and willingness to contribute to the child’s well-being. Moreover, the enhanced inclusivity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures signifies a step towards a more culturally sensitive legal framework.
Furthermore, the introduction of ‘harmful proceedings orders’ is a proactive measure to mitigate the adverse effects of vexatious litigations, which often prolong the resolution of family disputes and escalate the emotional and financial toll on the parties involved.
Lastly, the amendments to professional standards ensure that individuals engaged in the preparation of family reports are held to a high standard, thereby improving the quality and reliability of evidence presented in family law proceedings.
The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 is a progressive step towards creating a more equitable and child-friendly family law system in Australia. It’s imperative for individuals embroiled in family law disputes to familiarise themselves with these amendments and seek legal advice to understand how these changes might impact their cases.