The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and other Measures) Act 2011 amended the Family Law Act 1975 designed to help protect children from harm and improve the family law system’s response to family violence and abuse. The reforms came into operation on 7 June 2012
Anna Parker and Dr Adiva Sifris have written an informative article for the Law Institute Journal exploring the decisions handed down since the application of the reforms. In their article they have identified a number of themes that have emerged from the cases. Here is an excerpt of the article:
March 2015 89 (3) LIJ, p.42
A bird’s eye view
Anna Parker and Dr Adiva Sifris
The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth) (the FV Act) commenced operation on 7 June 2012. This legislation, which amended the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (the Act), was designed to improve the manner in which the family law courts deal with cases involving family violence and abuse.
The FV Act was introduced in response to a number of reports suggesting that issues of family violence and abuse were not well understood or adequately managed within the family law system.1 The amendments to the Act introduced by the FV Act included expanding the definitions of family violence and child abuse. Family violence now includes a wide range of threatening behaviours, such as stalking, repeated derogatory taunts and intentionally causing death or injury to an animal. Exposure to family violence includes situations when a child sees, hears or experiences family violence. The definition of child abuse now incorporates psychological harm as well as serious neglect of a child.2
Prior to the enactment of the FV Act, there was no direction as to how ensuring that parents have a meaningful involvement with their children would be balanced against protecting the children from harm. The amended legislation clearly directs the courts to prioritise the protection of children from harm over the promotion of a meaningful relationship with both parents. This is particularly important in the context of the two “primary considerations” relevant to the determination of a child’s best interests.3 The legislation also repealed provisions which were seen to discourage disclosure of violence and abuse, including the controversial “friendly parent” provision, which required the court to consider the willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close and continuing relationship between a child and the child’s other parent.
Themes from post-reform cases
A number of themes can be identified in family law decisions following the enactment of the reforms. Three of those themes are explored in this article – the extent of prioritisation of the protection from harm over meaningful relationships, the refusal on the part of the courts to make orders for equal shared parental responsibility, and detailed consideration of the context and type of family violence involved…
What to read more of the article? Then please contact Dr James McConvill via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a full on line copy.