Five directions, 15 recommendations to improve the family law system’s response to family violence

Five directions, 15 recommendations to improve the family law system’s response to family violence

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Today we know much more about the prevalence and impact of family violence in our community than we did in 1975, when a new family law system began. 70 per cent of matters before the Federal Circuit Court involve allegations of family violence.

We see a modern family law system that holds users of family violence to account, prioritises the safety of the victim survivor, and recognises that child victims of family violence require specialised responses and supports.

We recommend 15 reforms over five key areas to improve the family law system’s response to family violence

Expand help for families:

  1. Access to safe, legally-assisted family dispute resolution is expanded to support victim survivors to participate where safe to do so.
  2. Family Advocacy and Support Services is expanded to all court locations including regional circuits, to further help people navigate across the family law and family violence legal systems and access non-legal support services (such as family violence support workers).

Safer and clearer family law court processes:

  1. Case management and triaging at the point of intake is introduced to spot issues early, to inform and undertake ongoing risk assessment, and to ensure cases are appropriately managed for complexity and level of risk so that families are better supported through the court process. 
  2. Early determinations about family violence are made so that ongoing court proceedings and court orders are informed by factors impacting on the safety of children and parents.
  3. A legislative ban on direct cross-examination is in effect in cases where there is or has been a risk of family violence, to protect victim survivors against direct cross-examination by, or having to directly cross-examine, an ex-partner who has perpetrated family violence against them.
  4. A new simplified stream for determining the settlement of small property and debt pools is introduced to provide a quicker and more cost-effective process and provide access to justice. 
  5. Individuals are stopped from abusing court processes through closer scrutiny of new court applications.
  6. Resources are available to make physical changes to the court environment to improve safety at court.

Law reform:

  1. The definition of family violence is strengthened to ensure all situations of family violence are identified.
  2. The court is required to take family violence into account when dividing property.
  3. The court is required to ensure consent orders are safe.

Training and professional development for all people working in the family law system including judges:

  1. on family violence identification and response
  2. on spotting non-legal issues and making appropriate referrals, to ensure the system is comprehensively responding to families with complex needs like mental health concerns or drug and alcohol problems.

The ‘one court’ principle is implemented to:

  1. promote safety and reduce the burden on victim survivors including children, by reducing how much they have to appear in multiple jurisdictions and courts with very different policy and legislative frameworks
  2. improve information sharing to prioritise safety across the family law, family violence and child protection jurisdictions.

More information 

More information about each recommendation is available in our submission to the ALRC inquiry

Read more about our family law services.

Get help with family violence

Read how to get help with family violence.

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