In a big week of news in the family law arena, the Senate has rejected the proposed merger of the Family Law courts and today the Australian Law Reform Commission has released its final report into the Family Law System. It is the first comprehensive review of the Family Law System since 1976.
The Report is being given urgent consideration by the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia. The report is comprehensive and tabled some 60 recommendations for reforms in the Family Law system.
Those reforms, in a general sense are:
- That family law disputes be returned to the states and territory courts with the abolition of the federal family law courts
- The simplification of the relevant sections of the Family Law Act regarding parenting matters and a removal of mandatory consideration of particular living arrangements (namely shared care)
- Stricter case management and consequences for failure to comply with deadlines and for parties and advisors who do not seek to resolve disputes quickly, inexpensively and efficiently
- Simplification of property division with the inclusion of a standard starting position of equal contributions
- Increase the use of alternate dispute resolution
- A general simplification of the Family Law Act.
Whilst there are merits in some of the recommendations, there are some which will cause significant concern for practitioners as they may result in existing power imbalances being exacerbated, or contributions which are overwhelming being overlooked.
Watch this space as we will bring you more detailed summaries of the report as it is considered and reviewed by all relevant bodies.