From 7 June 2012, amendments and reforms to the existing Family Law Act have come into effect, clarifying the approach to certain matters in Family Law. These changes have been collectively termed the Family Violence Act.
Specifically, the act elevates the significance of protecting children from family violence in Family Law matters. The amendments prioritise the safety of children and modify the definition of family violence and abuse to reflect more contemporary understandings of these terms, which can include physical as well as emotional abuse.
What has changed in the Family Law Act?
The key changes to the Family Law Act summarised in the Family Violence Act include:
- greater weight will be given to “protection from harm” when determining what is in a child’s best interests
- changing the definition of “family violence” and “abuse” to reflect more contemporary understandings of the terms. This includes establishing examples of behaviour that are unacceptable, including physical and emotional abuse and the exposure of children to family violence
- more clarity around what a court can consider in relation to family violence orders when they are considering a child’s best interests
- requiring that family consultants, counsellors, alternative dispute resolution practitioners and legal practitioners encourage clients to prioritise the safety of children in their decision making
- improving reporting requirements for family violence and abuse and ensuring the courts have better access to evidence
- making it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings.
The Government has also emphasised that the Family Violence Act does not “roll back” 2006 reforms that promoted “shared care” in matters involving children. The intention of this act is to provide more clarity and guidance around issues that involve family violence and abuse.
Read more about the Family Violence Act.
Are our legal professionals equipped to handle these issues?
When it comes to the livelihoods and wellbeing of children, are our legal professionals equipped to handle to such delicate matters? That’s what some experts are asking when it comes to how Family Lawyers and judges deal with certain cases that come before the courts.
University of South Australia senior lecturer Elspeth McInnes told AAP that Australia’s family law system focuses on resolving family disputes between private citizens . Judges, while experts in the letter of the law and the intentions of the Act did not have the same understanding of the psychological implications that come with abuse.
What do you think about the Family Violence Act? Do you think the Family Courts systems are equipped to handle cases that involve violence?
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