Family Lawfor the Future —An Inquiry into theFamily Law SystemFINAL REPORTALRC Report 135March 2019
Family Lawfor the Future —An Inquiry into theFamily Law SystemFINAL REPORTALRC Report 135March 2019
This Final Report reflects the law as at 5 March 2019.The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) was established on 1 January 1975by the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 (Cth) and reconstituted by the Australian LawReform Commission Act 1996 (Cth).The office of the ALRC is at Level 4, Harry Gibbs Commonwealth Law Courts Building,119 North Quay, Brisbane QLD 4000.Postal Address:PO Box 12953,George Street QLD 4003Telephone: within Australia (07) 3248 1224International: 61 7 3248 1224Email:[email protected]: www.alrc.gov.auALRC publications are available to view or download free of charge on the ALRCwebsite: www.alrc.gov.au/publications. If you require assistance, please contact theALRC.ISBN: 978-0-6482087-4-7Commission Reference: ALRC Report 135, 2019 Commonwealth of Australia 2019This work is copyright. You may download, display, print and reproduce this materialin whole or part, subject to acknowledgement of the source, for your personal, noncommercial use or use within your organisation. Requests for further authorisationshould be directed to the ALRC.Printed by Fineline Print & Copy Service, NSW
The Hon Christian Porter MPAttorney-General of AustraliaParliament HouseCanberra ACT 260031 March 2019Dear Attorney-GeneralReview of the Family Law SystemOn 27 September 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission received Terms ofReference to undertake an inquiry into the family law system. On behalf of the Membersof the Commission involved in this Inquiry, and in accordance with the Australian LawReform Commission Act 1996 (Cth), I am pleased to present you with the Final Reporton this reference, Family Law for the Future—An Inquiry into the Family Law System(ALRC Report 135, 2019).Yours sincerely,The Hon Justice SC DerringtonPresident
ContentsTerms of 3Recommendations15Outcomes25Figures and Tables271. Framing the InquiryThe InquiryArticulation of the problemsThe impetus for reformProcess of reformOverarching principles2929313234362. The Family Law System in ContextThe family law system in AustraliaA brief historyA public health approach to family lawA law reform responseRelated inquiries5555565963663. The Family Law System: The DataIntroductionAbout the dataSnapshot of the case load of the family courtsFamily dispute resolutionMatters filed in the courtsParticipants in the family law systemCourt delayFamily violence and abuseWestern Australia: SnapshotALRC information gathering79798182848596103103105107
2Review of the Family Law System4. Closing the Jurisdictional GapIntroductionDevolution of family law jurisdictionInformation sharing1111111131435. Children’s MattersIntroductionLegislative frameworkThe paramount importance of the child’s best interestsPrinciples and objectsSimplifying and clarifying judicial decision makingSimplifying the best interests factorsClarifying parental decision making provisionsRequirements to consider particular care arrangementsImproved guidance materialAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of familyA less adversarial approach1551551581601621631651721761821831856. The Case for Reforming the Division of PropertyIntroductionProperty settlementSpecific aspects of property to be considered1951951972047. A Simplified Approach to Property DivisionIntroductionA clearer approach to property settlementDebtsSuperannuationBinding financial agreements (BFAs)Spousal maintenanceA compensatory framework for family violence2172172182272332362362408. Encouraging Amicable ResolutionIntroductionFinancial circumstances of separated familiesResolution pathwaysDispute resolution and modelsGreater use of non-court avenues for property and financial mattersAdmissibility and confidentiality of FDR in property and financial matters247247248248251257271
ContentsSupporting more FDR and LADRDisclosure obligations32722769. ArbitrationIntroductionFinancial mattersChildren’s mattersPower to make directionsCompulsory arbitrationFunding for existing models27927928128929229329410. Case Management: Efficiency and AccountabilityIntroductionOverarching purpose of family law practice and procedure provisionsMisuse of processes and systemsVexatious proceedings and summary dismissal powersCase managementCostsProtected confidences29529529730231131233133511. Compliance with Children’s OrdersIntroductionSupporting compliance with parenting ordersLeave requirementsConsequences of failure to comply with children’s orders33933934134835312. Support Services in the CourtsIntroductionThe importance of such services for childrenEnhanced support for children and familiesStrengthening the role of the Independent Children’s LawyerIndigenous Liaison OfficersSupported decision making in the family law systemLitigation representatives in family law proceedings35735735936537137837938113. Building Accountability and TransparencyIntroductionSystem oversightA Children and Young People’s Advisory BoardJudicial appointments385385386395397
4Review of the Family Law SystemFamily violence skills for lawyersAccreditation of private family report writersFDRP accreditation in property and financial mattersAccreditation of Children’s Contact ServicesWorkforce capability for the family law system40541041441641914. Legislative ClarityIntroductionGeneral comments on drafting family law legislationSimplifying family law legislationPrivacy provisions42342342442543515. Primary InterventionsIntroductionNational education and awareness campaignAccess to information about the family law systemReferral relationships with universal services44544544644945316. Secondary InterventionsIntroductionThe Family Advocacy and Support ServiceFamily Relationship CentresSpecialist service provision457457458464471Appendix A Preliminary Consultations473Appendix B Second Round Consultations475Appendix C Final Round Consultations481Appendix D Issues Paper Questions483Appendix E Discussion Paper Proposals and Questions489Appendix F List of Submissions to the Issues Paper and Discussion Paper517Appendix G Examples of Redrafted Provisions531Appendix H Suggested Restructure of Children’s Provisions549Appendix I Primary Sources561Appendix J Existing and Proposed Decision Making in Children’s Matters573
Terms of ReferenceReview of the family law systemI, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General of Australia, having regard to:yythe fact that, despite profound social changes and changes to the needs of familiesin Australia over the past 40 years, there has not been a comprehensive review ofthe Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (the Act) since its commencement in 1976;yythe greater diversity of family structures in contemporary Australia;yythe importance of ensuring the Act meets the contemporary needs of families andindividuals who need to have resort to the family law system;yythe importance of affording dignity and privacy to separating families;yythe importance of public understanding and confidence in the family law system;yythe desirability of encouraging the resolution of family disputes at the earliestopportunity and in the least costly and harmful manner;yythe paramount importance of protecting the needs of the children of separatingfamilies;yythe pressures (including, in particular, financial pressures) on courts exercisingfamily law jurisdiction;yythe jurisdictional intersection of the federal family law system and the state andterritory child protection systems, and the desirability of ensuring that, so far asis possible, children’s matters arising from family separation be dealt with in thesame proceedings;yythe desirability of finality in the resolution of family disputes and the need toensure compliance with family law orders and outcomes;yythe benefits of the engagement of appropriately skilled professionals in the familylaw systemREFER to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) for inquiry and report,pursuant to ss 20(1) of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth), aconsideration of whether, and if so what, reforms to the family law system are necessaryor desirable, in particular in relation to the following matters:yythe appropriate, early and cost-effective resolution of all family law disputes;yythe protection of the best interests of children and their safety;yyfamily law services, including (but not limited to) dispute resolution services;yyfamily violence and child abuse, including protection for vulnerable witnesses;yythe best ways to inform decision makers about the best interests of children, andthe views held by children in family disputes;
6yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyReview of the Family Law Systemcollaboration, coordination, and integration between the family law system andother Commonwealth, state and territory systems, including family supportservices and the family violence and child protection systems;whether the adversarial court system offers the best way to support the safety offamilies and resolve matters in the best interests of children, and the opportunitiesfor less adversarial resolution of parenting and property disputes;rules of procedure, and rules of evidence, that would best support high qualitydecision making in family disputes;mechanisms for reviewing and appealing decisions;families with complex needs, including where there is family violence, drug oralcohol addiction or serious mental illness;the underlying substantive rules and general legal principles in relation toparenting and property;the skills, including but not limited to legal, required of professionals in the familylaw system;restriction on publication of court proceedings;improving the clarity and accessibility of the law; andany other matters related to these Terms of Reference.I further request that the ALRC consider what changes, if any, should be made to thefamily law system; in particular, by amendments to the Family Law Act and other relatedlegislation.Scope of the referenceThe ALRC should have regard to existing reports relevant to:yythe family law system, including on surrogacy, family violence, access to justice,child protection and child support; andyyinteractions between the Commonwealth family law system and other fields,including family law services, the state and territory domestic and family violence,child protection, and child support systems, including the ALRC Family ViolenceReport 114.ConsultationThe ALRC should consult widely with family law, family relationship and social supportservices, health and other stakeholders with expertise and experience in the family lawand family dispute resolution sector. The ALRC should produce consultation documentsto ensure experts, stakeholders and the community have the opportunity to contribute tothe review.Timeframe for reportingThe ALRC should provide its report to the Attorney-General by 31 March 2019.
ParticipantsAustralian Law Reform CommissionPresidentThe Hon Justice SC DerringtonCommissioner in ChargeThe Hon Justice SC Derrington (from 6 November 2018)Professor H Rhoades (until 5 November 2018)Part-time CommissionersThe Hon Justice J Middleton, Federal Court of AustraliaThe Hon J FaulksMr G SinclairDr A Bickerdike (from 29 June 2018)The Hon C Edwardes AM GAICD (from 12 December 2018)The Hon M May AM QC (from 12 December 2018)General CounselMr Matt CorriganPrincipal Legal OfficersDr Rae KaspiewDr Julie MacKenzie (until 15 January 2019)Ms Sallie Mclean (from 21 December 2018 until 22 February 2019)Mr Stephen Still (until 11 January 2019)Mr Richard Pelvin (from 14 January 2019)
8Review of the Family Law SystemSenior Legal OfficersMr Micheil Paton (from 10 September 2018)Ms Lisa Zehetner (from 4 June 2018)Legal OfficersMs Sarah DobinsonMs Genevieve Murray (from 8 January 2019)Ms Mira Green (from 14 January 2019)Judge’s Associates (Research)Ms Phoebe Tapley (from 4 February 2019)Ms Tess Van Geelen (from 4 February 2019)Executive Support OfficerMs Claudine Kelly (from September 2018)Aurora ScholarshipEmma St ClairLegal InternsNicola BirdAlex JeffaresElena PanozzoKathy TruongMonash University Student ClinicGeorge AbrahamAmanda SelvarajahEmily TangJessica Tran
Participants9Advisory Committee MembersMr Michael Berry SC, President, Family Law Practitioners’ Association of WA (fromend of June 2018)Ms Jackie Brady, Executive Director, Family & Relationship Services Australia,Canberra, ACTMr Michael Brandenburg, Strategy Manager, No To Violence/Men’s Referral Service,Melbourne, VictoriaHer Hon Judge Amanda Chambers, Judge of the County Court of Victoria and Presidentof the Children’s Court of VictoriaThe Hon Professor Richard Chisholm AM, former Judge of the Family Court of Australia,Canberra, ACTMr Jeremy Culshaw, Legal Practice Director, Culshaw Miller Lawyers (WA); The LegalAdvice Service (WA and SA)Ms Sandra Elhelw-Wright, Women’s Chair, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councilsof Australia; Policy Officer, ACT Human Rights CommissionProfessor Belinda Fehlberg, Melbourne Law School, University of MelbourneDr Stewart Fenwick, CEO and Principal Registrar of the Federal Circuit Court ofAustralia, Melbourne, VictoriaThe Hon Mary Finn, former Judge of the Appeals Division of the Family Court ofAustralia, Canberra, ACTMs Manuela Galvao, Regional Co-ordinator, Child Dispute Services, Family Court ofAustralia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Melbourne, VictoriaMs Louise Glanville, Managing Director, Victoria Legal AidMagistrate Anne Goldsbrough, Magistrates’ Court of VictoriaMs Pamela Hemphill, Executive Director, Out-of-Home Care, Department for ChildProtection (SA)Dr Victoria Hovane, Study Director, Family and Community Safety for Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander Peoples Study, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACTMs Wendy Kayler-Thomson, Partner, Accredited Family Law Specialist, Forte FamilyLawyers, Melbourne, VictoriaMr Michael Kearney SC, Waratah Chambers, Sydney, NSWMs Angela Lynch, CEO, Women’s Legal Service QldMs Emma Malone, Clinical Psychologist, Carinity Communities - Talera, Brisbane(from end of June 2018)Ms Corina Martin, CEO, Aboriginal Family Law Services (WA)
10Review of the Family Law SystemCommissioner Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner, Australian HumanRights Commission, Sydney, NSWHis Hon Judge Matthew Myers AM, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Family Law PathwaysNetwork, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Sydney, NSWDr Heather Nancarrow, CEO, ANROWS, Sydney, NSWThe Hon Justice Richard O’Brien, Family Court of Western Australia and Family Courtof Australia, Perth, WAMs Jaquie Palavra, Managing Solicitor, Family Law Section, Northern Territory LegalAid CommissionMs Nicole Rich, Executive Director, Family Youth & Children’s Law; Executive Directorfor Gippsland Region, Victoria Legal AidMr Glenn R Thompson OAM, Partner, Newnhams Solicitors, Sydney, NSWProfessor John Tobin, Melbourne Law School, University of MelbourneThe Hon Justice Garry Watts, Family Court of Australia, Sydney, NSWThe Hon Justice Jillian Williams, Family Court of Australia, Melbourne, Victoria
AcknowledgementsThe ALRC gratefully acknowledges:yyyyyythe contribution of the Hon Professor Richard Chisholm AM, who kindly providedhis expertise in the consideration of specific legislative amendments required aspart of this Reviewthe support provided to the ALRC by the Australia Institute of Family Studies(AIFS) in the conduct of this Review of the Family Law System through thesecondment of Senior Research Fellow, Dr Rae Kaspiewthe support provided to the ALRC by the Attorney-General’s Department inthe conduct of this Review of the Family Law System through the provision ofadditional resources and the secondment of Stephen Still, Richard Pelvin and LisaZehetner.
GlossaryACCOAboriginal Community Controlled OrganisationAHRCAustralian Human Rights Commission, formerlyknown as the Human Rights and Equal OpportunitiesCommissionAIFSAustralian Institute of Family StudiesALRCAustralian Law Reform CommissionALRC and NSWLRC Family Family Violence—A National Legal ResponseViolence Report(ALRC Report 114, NSWLRC Report 128, 2010)CAGCouncil of Attorneys-GeneralCCSChildren’s Contact ServiceCLCCommunity Legal CentreCOAGCouncil of Australian GovernmentsConstitutionCommonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900CPDContinuing Professional DevelopmentCRCUnited Nations Convention on the Rights of the ChildFamily CourtFamily Court of Australia‘family courts’Includes the Family Court of Australia, the FederalCircuit Court of Australia, and the Family Court ofWestern AustraliaFamily Law ActFamily Law Act 1975 (Cth)Family Law RegulationsFamily Law Regulations 1984 (Cth)Family Law RulesFamily Law Rules 2004 (Cth)‘family law system’In this Report, refers collectively to the family courtsand all family law and post-separation services,including family relationship services (such asgovernment funded family counselling services,post-separation parenting programs, and Children’sContact Services (CCSs)), as well as legal aidcommissions, the community legal sector, and privateservices.
14Review of the Family Law SystemFASSFamily Advocacy and Support ServiceFDRFamily Dispute Resolution—an of out-of-courtprocess in which parties to a dispute are assistedby professionals such as mediators or specialistdispute resolution practitioners to identify issues,share relevant information, explore and test possiblesolutions, and to put agreements in writing.FDRPFamily Dispute Resolution PractitionerFederal Circuit CourtFederal Circuit Court of AustraliaFederal Circuit Court ActFederal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 (Cth)Federal Circuit Court RulesFederal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth)Federal CourtFederal Court of AustraliaFRCFamily Relationship CentreLADRLegally Assisted Dispute Resolution—an out-ofcourt process similar to FDR, but where the parties’legal advisors are also present to assist duringnegotiations.NSWLRCNew South Wales Law Reform CommissionParens patriaeA legal doctrine which holds the state responsible forprotecting citizens who are unable to act on their ownbehalf, such as children. It grants the state authorityto intervene against abusive or negligent parents orguardians.SPLA Family Violence Report House of Representatives Standing Committee onSocial Policy and Legal Affairs, A Better Family LawSystem to Support and Protect Those Affected byFamily Violence (2017)Tell Us Your StoryIn addition to consultations and public submissions,this Inquiry provided a confidential online portalwhere participants could share their personalexperiences with the family law system.
Recommendations4. Closing the Jurisdictional GapRecommendation 1The Australian Government should consider options toestablish state and territory family courts in all states and territories, to exercisejurisdiction concurrently under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), as well as state andterritory child protection and family violence jurisdiction, whilst also considering themost efficient manner to eventually abolish first instance federal family courts.Recommendation 2The Australian Government should work with state andterritory governments to develop and implement a national information sharingframework to guide the sharing of information about the safety, welfare, and wellbeingof families and children between the family law, family violence, and child protectionsystems. The framework should include:yyyyyyyyyyyythe legal framework for sharing information;relevant federal, state, and territory court documents;child protection records;police records;experts’ reports; andother relevant information.Recommendation 3The Australian Government, together with state and territorygovernments, should consider expanding the information sharing platform as part of theNational Domestic Violence Order Scheme to include family court orders and ordersmade u
Review of the Family Law System On 27 September 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission received Terms of Reference to undertake an inquiry into the family law system. On behalf of the Members of the Commission involved in this Inquiry, and in accordance with the Australian Law
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