We welcome the government’s investment in and reform of family courts

We welcome the government’s investment in and reform of family courts

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

We welcome the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s announcement of a comprehensive review of the family law system.

Today's budget media release announcing the review also includes a range of measures we are pleased to see. This includes additional funding for the family law system, particularly for family consultants and community legal centres.

The government’s commitment to eliminate direct cross-examination of family violence survivors by perpetrators is a vital one. Currently a victim of family violence at the hands of their ex-partner can be made to sit in the witness box and be directly cross-examined by that ex-partner. This experience is traumatising. It also does not illicit the best evidence on which Courts can base their decisions, and the mere possibility that direct cross-examination could occur can, in our experience, cause victims of violence to agree to unsafe consent orders or to abandon a small and much needed property settlement claim.

We also look forward to the results of the Parramatta pilot of Parenting Management Hearings, which we hope will see courts taking a more active role in making early decisions about family violence allegations.

The Parliamentary inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence has meanwhile taken written submissions and will begin hearing evidence in the coming months.

This inquiry will similarly draw on a range of recent reports into the family law system and family violence, including the Family Law Council’s interim and final reports.

Read our submission

Read our Submission to Parliamentary inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence (docx, 232.6 KB)

In our submission we call for reform to the family law courts to focus on safety. We will also call for this in our submissions to the upcoming comprehensive review of the family law system.

We believe that prioritising safety in the family law courts includes:

  • earlier judicial decision-making about family violence allegations
  • increased family violence support services at family courts
  • more regular family violence training of family law professionals
  • more resourcing and better integration across the family law system
  • the elimination of direct cross examination.

In our submission we also suggest ways to make small family property settlements more accessible by creating a new simplified claims option.