The Australian Parliament recently passed new legislation designed to make the family law system easier to navigate and to ensure that what is in the child’s best interest is at the forefront of all parenting decisions made. In this article, we outline what some of those changes are and how they will impact families going through the family court system.

The new legislation passed (The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023) is designed to make the family courts safer and easier to use.

The Bill includes some of the following recommendations and changes to the family law system:

1. Best interests of the child/ren

The presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility” as outlined in the Family Law Act 1975 has been changed to place more emphasis and weight on what is in the best interests of the child/ren when settling parenting disputes. Previously, the right of each parent and the child to have shared time was strongly taken into consideration when parenting orders were made. That presumption has been removed and what is in the best interests of the child will now be the primary consideration.

2. Independent Children’s Lawyers to be more involved

Independent Children’s Lawyers will now be permitted to be involved in matters brought under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and they will be required to meet with a child and give them the opportunity to express their views and have their voices heard.

3. Expand the concept of what is considered to be ‘family’

The definition of what is considered to be a “member of the family” under the Family Law Act has been expanded to be more inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of community, family and kinship.

4. Compliance with parenting orders

The process for enforcing parenting orders and ensuring they are complied with, will be made simpler and more efficient, with clearer guidelines as to what happens when a parenting order is not complied with, to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation of the orders.

Examples of non-compliance can include where one parent hinders or prevents the other parent from spending time with a child, or if one parent fails to return the child/ren to the other parent, as per the order.

Additional information sharing Bill also passed

In addition to this, The Family Law Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2023 was also passed, which allows the courts to have a better picture of what’s happening within a family dynamic to determine if there is a risk of child abuse, neglect, or family violence; again with the aim being to make it easier for people going through the family law system. 

What this means is:  

  • two new information sharing orders have been introduced which allow courts to directly and quickly seek information from police, child protection and firearms agencies about family violence, child abuse and neglect that could place children at risk;
  • the court can now make these orders at any point during proceedings, so information is accurate and up-to-date; and

  • further protections will introduced to ensure sensitive information is only disclosed in a safe and appropriate manner.

Then aim of these measures is to make the family court a safer place and to simplify some of the more complex sections of the Act so that they cannot be misinterpreted during parenting disagreements, resulting in children being placed in ‘unsafe situations.’

Need to speak to a family lawyer?

If you are unsure about what these changes to the family law system mean for you, or you need to speak to an experienced family lawyer regarding any parenting, property or financial matters, contact the team at Ivy Law Group on (02) 9262 4003 for a confidential discussion or submit an online enquiry.

The content of this article is intended as a general guide to the subject matter. For specific legal advice about your individual circumstances, please contact our experienced lawyers.

Check out our NEW Podcast

We cover the tough family law issues in the time it takes you to drink your coffee.