Family law reforms to re-focus on the best interests of children

Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s family law reform package, which was passed by Parliament today.

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 re-focuses Australia’s family law system on the best interests of children and the safety of caregivers.

It introduces a number of key reforms, including:

  • Confirming the best interests of children as the overriding priority for the family law system
  • Improving the way courts handle family violence, domestic violence and abuse
  • Reforming and clarifying principles underpinning shared parenting orders
  • Improving the court’s ability to restrain parties from legal coercion and vexatious applications, also known as systems abuse
  • Ensuring independent lawyers meaningfully consult with and represent children
  • Creating a pathway for greater accountability around family reports in legal proceedings
  • Better meeting Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

WLSA Chair, Elena Rosenman, commended Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC on prioritising these reforms and consulting widely with the community.

“Women’s legal services across Australia are on the frontline of our family law system, representing women through incredibly difficult experiences. We work to keep women and their children safe and these changes will support them in that important work.”

“We strongly support reform of the Family Law Act to make the law clearer and fairer, including the removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility to improve safety.”

“When violence and abuse are factors, courts will be able to deal with them more easily and reduce the number of children and mothers forced into dangerous situations.”

“Women’s legal services across Australia have advocated for this reform for many years based on the toxic and harmful effect it has had on families going through separation.”

“Removing this dangerous provision will give the courts the freedom to focus on safety and the genuine best interests of children and families.”

“Women’s legal services remain severely underfunded and unable to meet current demand. Law reform on its own is not enough. This bill must be accompanied by additional resourcing to the legal assistance sector to ensure people are able to access legal advice and representation when they need it.”