In May 2017, the government announced its intention to direct the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to conduct the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976.
The ALRC received the Terms of Reference for the review in September 2017. The first item in the terms of reference is that, despite profound social changes and changes to the needs of families in Australia over the past 40 years, there has not been a comprehensive review of the Family Law Act 1975 since it’s commencement.
This is a recognition of the fact that whilst children who are raised by two biological parents in a nuclear family arrangement remain dominant, more than a quarter of Australian families do not fit this description and there has been a significant increase in unmarried and sole-parent families as well as step families, blended families, same sex families and other kinship arrangements. There have also been significant changes in methods of family formation, including a growing use of reproductive technologies and surrogacy arrangements.
The terms of reference also ask the ALRC to explore the process for resolving disputes about the care of children and the division of property, including questioning whether the adversarial court system offers the best way to support the safety of families and resolve matters in the best interests of children, and the opportunities for less adversarial resolution of these disputes.
Part of the review process includes consultation with the community, family law experts, family dispute resolution section, and other stakeholders.
In March 2018, there will be the release of the Issues Paper, consultations, and a call for submissions.
As a firm, we intend to be part of this consultative process and will (along with other practitioners and Associations we belong to) submit a submission about our views on “the system” and our recommended changes/ways to the current system.
As a member of the public, you can also be part of this process.
The ALRC website has set up a page which allows member of the public to share their experiences of the family law system confidentially. https://www.alrc.gov.au/content/tell-us-your-story
The report is due by March 2019 but we will be following the review closely along the way so stay tuned for updates!