Family Law Act Set for Amendments

7th December 2023

Societal changes over the last 40 years means that the current Family Law Act 1975 is not meeting the needs of separating families. The RMB Lawyers Family & Relationships Law Division explains proposed amendments to the Act:

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 has been proposed to amend the Family Law Act 1975, with some additional consequential amendments to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021.

These changes stem from Australian Law Reform Commission recommendations in its report, Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System and aim to simplify and clarify the law about parenting orders, terminology, and the process in cases where an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is appointed.

Most notably, the Bill aims to implement a core list of six factors to replace Section 60CC for consideration of the ‘best interests of the child’ and another list of considerations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, so they have the opportunity to connect with, and maintain connect to, their family, community, culture and country.

This proposed legislation would also aim to assist litigants to provide simplified advice to parties and would assist people understanding the advice in order to negotiate family dispute resolutions outside of Court.

The Bill also proposes to repeal Sections 61DA and 65DAA of the Act which presumes that it is in the best interests of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared responsibility and requires the Court to consider whether the child spending equal time would be in the child’s best interests.

Departing from presumed equal parental responsibility is significant, particularly where family violence is a factor. Outside of Court, this means that parents can enter negotiations which plan to direct parents’ attention away from a (mistaken) rights-based assessment of time arrangements to what is best for the children.

Additional amendments of the Bill include:

  1. To clarify the circumstances in which a court can vary existing parenting orders;
  2. Redrafting provisions relating to compliance with, and enforcement of, parenting orders;
  3. To permit the appointment of ICLs in matters brought under the Hague Convention and would require ICLs to meet with the child and give the child the opportunity to express their views;
  4. Amending the definitions relating to the concept of the word ‘family’ to be more inclusive of Indigenous Australians culture and traditions; and
  5. Enabling standards and requirements to be prescribed for professionals who prepare family reports.

If you're currently going through a separation and have any questions about the process, your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.