Saturday, June 9, 2012

Changes To Family Law - The Family Violence Act 2011

From 7 June 2012, Changes to Family Law will take effect that will place children and their safety front and centre in family law matters.

The Family Court strongly supports happy, healthy relationships between children and  their parents and  supports shared care where this is safe for the child.
Unfortunately, more than half of the  parenting cases that come to courts involve allegations by one  or both  parties that the  other has been
violent.  Family violence  and  child abuse cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. This is why the Australian Government has  amended the Family Law Act to:

 Prioritise the safety of children in parenting matters by giving greater weight to the protection from harm when determining what is in a childs best interests.

 Change the definition  of family violence and
abuse to reflect a contemporary understanding of what family violence  and abuse is by clearly setting out what behaviour is unacceptable, including physical and emotional abuse and
the exposure of children to family violence.

 Better target what a court can consider in relation to family violence  orders as part of considering a childs best interests.
 Strengthen advisers obligations by requiring family consultants, family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners and legal practitioners to prioritise the safety of children.
 Ensure the courts have better access to evidence of family violence and abuse by improving  reporting requirements.
 Make it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings.

These changes will help people within the family law system to better understand, disclose and act where there are family violence  and child abuse concerns.

Family courts will be able to access better information on which to assess risk to families and the best interests of children, helping to improve the appropriateness of parenting orders.

The Family Law Act will continue to promote a childs right to a meaningful relationship with both parents where this is safe for the child.

What the Family Violence Act Does Not Do

The Family Violence Act does not roll back the 2006 shared parenting reforms. Parenting arrangements will continue to be made in a way that promotes a childs right to have  a meaningful relationship with both  parents where this is safe.

The  Family  Violence Act will not  impact outcomes for separating families where there are no  family violence or child  abuse concerns. For those cases where there is no risk of violence or abuse and  it is in the  childs best interests, the  courts will continue to apply the  presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and  consider equal time  or, as the case requires, substantial and  significant time.

The family courts will not lose the ability to award costs where a party knowingly makes false statements. The family courts will retain a broad power to make costs orders. In addition, it remains a criminal offence to knowingly make a false statement during court proceedings.

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