The ALRC commenced an inquiry into the Family Law system on 27 September 2017. The Final Report was delivered on 31 March 2019.
The primary recommendations of the ALRC were:
1. Closing the Jurisdictional Gap.
The most significant recommendation is to abolish the Federal Family Courts, being the Family Court of Australia and family law division of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and return family law disputes to the States and Territories.
The proposal is to stop the gaps in the different systems being:
• The Federal Family Law Courts (Family Court and Federal Circuit Court),
• The State and Territory Child Protection System (Children’s Court in NSW), and
• The State and Territory responses to Family violence (Local Court in NSW)
Rather than improving the communication and networks between the different systems, the recommendation is to abolish the Federal Courts and replace them with a State Court that may communicate easier with the other systems.
2. Children’s Orders
It is recommended that the Family Law Act be amended to simplify the factors to be considered when determining living arrangements and to remove mandatory consideration of particular living arrangements.
3. Stricter Case Management
The ALRC recommends changes to allow for clearer consequences for separated couples during Court proceedings.
4. Compliance with Children’s Orders
The ALRC seeks for there to be an improvement of understanding of Orders through greater engagement with family consultants and place limits on interim appeals
5. Simpler Property Division
It is proposed that the starting position for separated couples in property settlements is that each party made equal contributions during the de facto relationship or marriage.
6. Encourage Amicable Dispute Resolution
The ALRC recommends that the proportion of family law matters that are dealt with through mediation without solicitors (Family Dispute Resolution) and mediation with solicitors (Legally Assisted Dispute Resolution) is increased.
7. Legislative Simplification
The Family Law Act is to be redrafted to be less confusing to understand.
It is important to understand that these are only Recommendations and will not be put into place until Federal parliament has changed the Family Law Act.
Any changes to the Family Law system will not occur until after the upcoming Federal election and the Recommendations that may be put into place will differ depending on which party forms government.
These Recommendations if implemented will significantly change the way that family law proceedings are conducted for separated couples.
Written by Steven Ng