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Australian Family Law Reform and Child Support Reviews (History 2003-2010)


Have your say - MP's and Senators' E-Mail Addresses (or alternative contact details)

Australia's House of Representatives
Alphabetical list of Members
List of Members by State

Australia's Senate
Alphabetical list of Senators
List of Senators by State and Territory





29 December 2003
Every picture tells a story


Report on the inquiry into child custody arrangements in the event of family separation House of Representatives, Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs

Every picture tells a story - Full Report (PDF document 1,4MB)
Individual Chapters




14 June 2005
Taskforce Report 'In the Best Interests of Children - Reforming the Child Support Scheme'


The Government has now publicly released this report. It covers complex and important issues affecting families following separation. The Government will fully consider the report's recommendations before it responds. The report has been prepared by the Ministerial Taskforce in two parts: the Summary Report, which also includes the recommendations, and the Full Report.

Summary Report and Recommendations (PDF document 346kb)
Full Report (PDF document 1.8MB)

What's New?

Income Shares Approach based on four key foundations:

  1. evidence on the costs of children;
  2. taking into account the.combined income of both parents and treating the incomes of both parents in the same way;
  3. recognising either parent's contribution to the children via care or contact;
  4. treating all children in each parent's families equally.


What's Different?

The Child Support Formula:

  • same self-support amounts for payers and payees;
  • cost of children percentages vary depending on the age of the children, number of children and parents' combined income;
  • equal treatment of first and second families;
  • more account of the cost of contact;
  • higher minimum payments;
  • the cap on child support income takes more account of evidence on cost of children;
  • treatment of non-taxable payments and fringe benefits tax;
  • Prescribed Non-Agency Payment limit increased from 25% to 30%, but these payments are not credited where reduction is made for contact;
  • longer moratorium on maintenance action test for FTB;
  • sharing of FTB, access to 'with child' rate and other additional payments;
  • deduction of child support payments from assessable income for income support payment eligibility; and
  • consideration of changes to the Maintenance Income Test to provide greater equity and focus on the child.

Departures from the formula and agreements:

  • treatment of additional income such as overtime or a second job;
  • treatment of step-children;
  • capacity to earn; and
  • treatment of agreements.

Compliance and administration:

  • treatment of parents who do not lodge tax returns;
  • recovery of child support payments when a payer has successfully disputed paternity;
  • treatment of lump-sum amounts; and
  • external review mechanism.


Expected Outcomes if Recommended Changes are Adopted

If the proposed changes are adopted the Child Support Formula would be

  • more transparent to both parents;
  • more focused on the needs of children and fairer to children;
  • more explicable, as based on the evidence on the cost of children;
  • better integrated with family assistance and income support payments; and
  • more gender balanced.

As a result it could be expected that:

  • conflict between parents about parenting arrangements would decrease;
  • disincentives to workforce participation for bot parents would decrease;
  • voluntary compliance would increase; and
  • transfers of child support payments would increase.




23 June 2005
A new family law system - Government Response to Every picture tells a story


Response to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs inquiry into child-custody arrangements in the event of family separation

PDF document 144kb




23 June 2005
Proposed Family Law changes released for public comment


An exposure draft released today with proposed changes to the Family Law Act 1975 will recognise the right of children to know both their parents, as well as the need to protect children from harm, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today. "The changes to the law reflect the fact that parenting continues, even after a relationship ends," Mr Ruddock said.

Some of the proposed changes will:

  • introduce a new presumption of joint parental responsibility to promote parents consulting together on important parenting decisions such as where a child goes to school or major health issues;
  • make the primary factors when deciding the best interests of the child the right of children to know their parents and be protected from harm;
  • require parents to attend dispute resolution and develop parenting plans before taking a parenting matter to court (with exceptions including situations of child abuse and violence);
  • improve enforcement of parenting orders through the ability to impose cost orders, bonds, "make up" time and compensation;
  • require parents, advisers, mediators and the courts to consider substantially sharing parenting time in appropriate cases better recognise the interests of children in spending time with grandparents and other relatives.

The Government has also responded to concerns about family violence and child abuse. Clear exceptions to shared parenting and dispute resolution will apply in cases involving violence or child abuse. A proposal to make cost orders against people who falsely allege violence to avoid attending family relationship centres was withdrawn.

The Government has referred the exposure draft of the bill to the House Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The Committee will report in August.

"The Government believes these changes, alongside the package of family law initiatives announced in the recent Budget, will help separating parents sit down across the table and agree what is best for their children, rather than fighting in the courtroom," Mr Ruddock said.

Exposure Draft Of The Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005 (PDF document 475kb)
Explanatory Memorandum of the Family Law Amendment Bill 2005 (PDF document 123kb)




28 June 2005
Children proceedings exposure draft overview


Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has released an exposure draft Bill and explanatory memorandum for amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) in relation to proceedings concerning children. The aim of the amendments, according to the explanatory memorandum, is to "bring about a cultural shift in how family separation is managed: away from litigation and towards cooperative parenting".

An overview of the draft provisions is set out below.

Amendment to the objects and principles

It is proposed that the objects and principles of Pt VII of the Act are to be amended to

  • include a new object: "to ensure that children have the benefit of both their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives, to the maximum extent consistent with the best interests of the child"
  • a new underlying principle, for children to enjoy their culture (which is further defined in relation to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children), and
  • a new principle to recognise that children need to be protected from physical or psychological harm, for example by witnessing family violence.

Family Dispute Resolution

The Bill contains provisions that would require people who apply to court for parenting orders to first attempt to resolve their dispute using family dispute resolution services, such as mediation. The court would not be able to hear the application unless the applicant files a certificate by a family dispute resolution practitioner.

The exceptions to the requirement are as follows:

  • where there is or has been family violence or abuse (in which case, the parties would normally be obliged to obtain information about the issues from a family counsellor)
  • the application is a contravention application
  • the application is urgent, for example an abduction case
  • a party is unable to participate in dispute resolution due to incapacity or physical remoteness.

The requirements would be phased in to match the roll out of the Family Relationship Centres (anticipated to be completed by 1 July 2008).

There are various amendments to the terminology, for example "primary dispute resolution" is removed and a distinction is drawn between relationship counselling and dispute resolution. A further distinction is made between "advisory dispute resolution" and "facilitative dispute resolution" (where information but no advice is provided). Those engaged in facilitative dispute resolution will have the immunity that currently applies to mediators under s 19M of the Act.

Provisions are set out for the approval of organisations offering family dispute resolution services.

Disclosures made to family dispute resolution practitioners are generally confidential, although the practitioner may disclose a communication in certain circumstances, such as to protect a child from harm, or to report a violent offence. Disclosures made to a family dispute resolution practitioner are generally inadmissible.

However, if the dispute resolution is provided by a "family and child specialist" appointed by the court, disclosures will be admissible.

Presumption of parental responsibility

A new provision requires the court to apply a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child's parents to have joint parental responsibility.

The Act already provides that all parents have parental responsibility, and those provisions remain unchanged under the Bill.

The new presumption does not apply if:

  • there are reasonable grounds to believe a parent or a person who lives with a parent has engaged in child abuse against the child or a child in the parent's family, or family violence
  • the order is an interim order and the court does not consider it is appropriate to apply the presumption.

In practical terms, it would seem that rather than promoting shared parental responsibility, which already exists, the court is encouraged to diminish or extinguish parental responsibility in certain circumstances.

The different treatment of child abuse and family violence is curious. If the parent or a person living with the parent has engaged in child abuse against a child who is not within the parent's family, the presumption still applies. The presumption could therefore apply to a parent who is a convicted paedophile or who uses child pornography within the home. Family violence is not qualified so the presumption might not apply the in case of an isolated incident that the child may not be aware of.

What is parental responsibility?

The Act currently defines parental responsibility very widely as being: "all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children" (s 61B).

The explanatory memorandum to the exposure draft states that joint parental responsibility involves parents making joint decisions about "major long-term issues" about their children. Examples of "major long-term issues" are given in a proposed s 60D(1), being the child's eduction, religious and cultural upbringing, health, name and living arrangements (significant change, not including moving residence within the same locality).

If joint parental responsibility is conferred by an order, the parents will be required to consult each other about major long-term issues and make a genuine effort to come to a joint decision.

Obligations on advisers

Advisers (lawyer, family counsellor, family dispute resolution practitioner or family and child specialist) will be obliged to provide detailed information on parenting plans, and will be required to explain that if a parenting order is in force, a subsequent parenting plan may terminate the order to the extent of inconsistency with the plan.

"Substantial time"

There is no presumption of that a child should spend equal time with each parent. However, the court will be required to consider making an order that the child spend "substantial time" with each parent.

Best interests of the child

Two tiers of factors that the court must consider in determining the best interests of the child are proposed.

The new primary considerations will be:

  • the benefit to the child from having a meaningful relationship with both parents
  • the need to protect the child from violence or psychological harm.

The second tier will be the best interests factors that already exist in s 68F(2) of the Act. Added to this list will be "the willingness and ability of each of the child's parents to facilitate, and encourage, a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent".

Section 68F(2)(j) will be amended to exclude uncontested or interim family violence orders to address complaints that unsubstantiated allegations of violence can be taken into account under the current provision. It will be interesting to see whether this amendment has the effect of increasing the number of uncontested family violence orders. Claims of violence, whether proven or not will presumably need to be considered under the new primary considerations in any event so it is unclear how this amendment will operate in practice.

References to children's "wishes" are replaced with "views" which it is hoped will prevent children from feeling pressured to make a decision about their future.

Other amendments include greater recognition of grandparents and other relatives, and an emphasis on consideration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and practices.

Compliance regime

The standard of proof to be applied in enforcement proceedings is clarified to be the civil standard (balance of probabilities) unless the court is considering a criminal penalty, in which case the standard is beyond reasonable doubt.

The options available to the court in enforcement of parenting orders are widened, such as:

  • at both stage 2 and 3 the court must consider awarding compensation for expenses incurred by a party
  • at stage three the court must award costs against the contravening party unless it is not in the best interests of the child.

Conduct of children proceedings

A less adversarial, more inquisitorial process will be implemented for children proceedings. The new regime broadly reflects the Family Court's pilot Children's Cases Program.

A new Div 1A is inserted into Pt VII of the Act. Four principles are set out which should be considered when interpreting the new division. These, in summary are:

  • the court is to consider the needs and concerns of the child in determining the conduct of the proceedings
  • the court is to actively manage the proceedings
  • the conduct of the proceedings should promote co-operative and child-focussed parenting
  • proceedings are to be conducted without undue delay and with as little formality and legal technicality as possible.

A number of duties of the court are set out to ensure that the court actively manages the case in line with the principles.

Evidence

In a new Subdivision on evidence in child-related proceedings, some of the rules of evidence in the Evidence Act 1995 will apply but most will not, unless the court decides they should.

The evidence rules that will not generally apply are those concerning the ways of giving evidence, examination in chief, re-examination and cross examination, documents, hearsay, opinion, admissions evidence of judgments and convictions, tendency and coincidence, credibility and character. The purpose of this is to achieve a less adversarial court process.

The court's general duties and powers are detailed to allow the court a greater roll in managing proceedings.

A specific amendment is included to allow evidence of transcripts of other court proceedings for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is to assist the court in informing itself of kinship obligations and child-rearing practices.

Provision of information

There will be greater requirements to provide information to separating couples about dispute resolution and proceedings.

Terminology

The terms "residence" and "contact" will be removed and orders will refer to who the child lives with and spends time or communicates with instead.




26 July 2005
House of Representatives Committee Hearing, Canberra


Reference: Exposure draft of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005
To inquire into and report on: The provisions of the draft Bill.

Entire transcript of the hearing (PDF document 592kb)




08 December 2005

Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill (08 December) 2005 (PDF document 424kb)

Response to the Recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (The Committee) on the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005 (PDF document 188kb)




14 February 2006
Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Attorney-General
MEDIA RELEASE

Labor's amendments put safety from family violence first


Labor today released a package of amendments to further improve the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill. We urge the Government to accept these amendments, which are in the best interests of Australian children.

Labor proposes several changes that would make safety a priority, including:

  • a clear exemption from face-to-face mediation in violent relationships and proper screening for violent cases;
  • protection from coercion and intimidation when making parenting plans;
  • a cooling-off period for parenting plans;
  • reverting to existing definition of violence but adding protection for children who witness violence; and
  • removing disincentives to raise concerns about violence.

Labor generally supports these family law reforms - particularly the aims of:

  • encouraging both mums and dads to take more responsibility for their children after relationship breakdown;
  • proposing alternatives to the legal system;
  • prioritising children following family breakdown; and
  • improving the legal process when children are involved.

Labor also welcomes the major change of heart shown by the Government in adopting Labor's call for family law to recognise parental obligations and responsibilities to children, rather than focussing simply on parental "rights". But the changes Labor proposes could significantly improve the Bill.

In addition to amendments concerning family violence, Labor proposes:

  • a guarantee in law that the move to compulsory mediation will be coupled with the promised 3 hours of free mediation; and
  • a clear legislative framework to ensure that Family Relationship Centres can meet the huge challenges they will face - including proper accreditation standards, quality control and thorough training in how to recognise and handle family violence.

Family law should not be about a tug-of-war between mums or dads, or a brawl between Liberal and Labor.

Family law is for the protection of children and we should always put them first. Children need love, care and security and we should shape our concerns around them. These amendments will be good for Australian children and we urge the Government to support them.




26 February 2006
Attorney-General
Media Release

Government Launches Family Law Violence Strategy


The Australian Government is taking steps to improve the handling of family violence and child abuse allegations in the family law system, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced today.

"I am concerned about false allegations of violence or abuse. I am also concerned about false denials," Mr Ruddock said. "Family violence and child abuse have traumatic and long-lasting consequences. I want a better family law system where these cases are dealt with quickly, fairly and properly.

"Cases should not drag on while family members remain exposed to the risk of violence. Allegations should not hang out there indefinitely without an effective process to establish the facts," he said.

The Government will fund the Australian Institute of Family Studies to conduct independent research on how allegations of family violence and child abuse are raised and addressed in the family law system.

The Government will also ask the Family Law Council - the Government's advisory body - to examine strategies to make sure Commonwealth and State and Territory laws and agencies can work together better in these cases.

Through the Family Law Violence Strategy, the Government will:

  • gain a better understanding of how allegations of family violence and child abuse are dealt with in family law proceedings
  • work with the responsible State and Territory agencies to ensure allegations of violence and abuse are promptly and thoroughly investigated
  • work with the courts to improve court processes for cases where family violence and child abuse allegations are raised; and
  • ensure the family law reforms and proper screening at the new Family Relationship Centres help people experiencing violence or abuse access appropriate support and services.

"I have asked the relevant Ministers of all States and Territories to meet with me to discuss a cooperative approach to implementing the Strategy," Mr Ruddock said.

The Family Law Violence Strategy (PDF document 436kb)




28 February 2006
The Hon. Mal Brough MP

Australian Government Proposes Reform to the Child Support Scheme


On 28 February 2006, the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Honourable Mal Brough MP, announced the Australian Government will reform aspects of the Child Support and family payment systems in order to protect the best interests of children, while balancing the interests of parents and reflecting community expectations. These proposed changes follow a detailed examination of how the Child Support Scheme might be changed to best address the issues faced by separated families.

Since the current Child Support Scheme was introduced in 1988, the circumstances of many Australian families have changed greatly. In recent times, there has been considerable community concern about contact and residency issues following marriage and relationship breakdown, and there is much more recognition of the importance of parents remaining actively involved in their children's lives after separation.

The new system will be fairer, more transparent for both parents and more focused on the needs and costs of children. It will be better integrated with the family law and income support systems. This is expected to reduce conflict between parents about parenting arrangements, encourage shared parental responsibility and ensure child support is paid in full and on time.

The proposed changes are not yet law, and will be subject to the passing of legislation. Parents involved in the Child Support Scheme will be notified well before any changes take place. When the changes do become law, the Child Support Agency and Centrelink will provide information and support to assist parents with their new child support obligations. Until then, clients should maintain their current child support arrangements. Some factsheets about the Proposed Changes to the Child Support Scheme is available to help explain the proposed reforms in more detail.


Factsheets about the Proposed Changes to the Child Support Scheme

Factsheet One: An overview of the reforms (PDF document 170kb)
Factsheet Two: Questions and answers about the reforms (PDF document 188kb)
Factsheet Three: Stage One - Changes to the Scheme from July 2006 (PDF document 140kb)
Factsheet Four: Stage Two - Changes to the Child Support Scheme from January 2007 (PDF document 157kb)
Factsheet Five: Stage Three - Changes to the Child Support Scheme from July 2008 (PDF document 138kb)
Factsheet Six: The new Child Support Formula (PDF document 135kb)
Factsheet Seven: Stage Two - Improving the relationship between the courts, the Child Support Scheme and the CSA (PDF document 129kb)
Factsheet Eight: Stage Two - Extension of time to apply for child support (PDF document 128kb)
Factsheet Nine: Stage Two - Parentage issues and child support payments (PDF document 133kb)
Factsheet Ten: Stage Two - Appealing child support decisions to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (PDF document 141kb)




24 March 2006
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee

Inquiry into the provisions of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005

The Senate Inquiry has reported

On 7 February 2006 , the Senate referred the above Bill to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 27 March 2006.

The Bill amends the Family Law Act 1975. The changes proposed by the Bill include:

  • the introduction of a presumption of joint parental responsibility;
  • the requirement for parents to attend dispute resolution and develop parenting plans before taking a parenting matter to court;
  • improvements to enforcement of parenting orders;
  • and better recognising the interests of children in spending time with grandparents and other relatives


Download the full Report (PDF document 280kb)
Further information about the inquiry
Submissions
Public Hearings
Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill (08 December) 2005 (PDF document 424kb)
Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill (02 March) 2006 - As read a third time (PDF document 448kb)


RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation 1

3.36 The Committee recommends that there be a definition of 'equal shared parental responsibility' inserted in the bill.

Recommendation 2
3.58 The relationship between the considerations in proposed subsections 60CC(2) and (3) be clarified in the bill.

Recommendation 3
3.62 Subsections 60CC(4) and (4A) should be amended to make it clear that a court should consider a parent's pre- and post-separation conduct and circumstances. The revised provisions should use appropriate terminology for the pre-separation conduct and considerations, and avoid using post-separation terminology such as 'the parent's obligation to maintain the child'. The revised provisions should also direct the court that while pre-separation considerations are important, the focus should be on determining the child's best interests in relation to a parent's present and future conduct and circumstances.

Recommendation 4
3.64 That the Government undertake a review of the application of provisions which may operate to exclude the Court's consideration in situations where consent orders are lodged by the parties.

Recommendation 5
3.111 The proposed definition of family violence should be redrafted to clarify that the test is the 'reasonable person in the shoes of the individual and whether they would fear or have an apprehension of violence'.

Recommendation 6
3.112 The Government should use the results of the Australian Institute of Family Studies research it has commissioned into family violence and, if necessary, review definitions of family violence across all State and Territory jurisdictions as soon as possible.

Recommendation 7
3.129 Proposed subsection 117AB should be removed from the bill pending any relevant results of the Australian Institute of Family Studies research into the prevalence of false allegations of family violence in family law proceedings.

Recommendation 8
3.154 That the Government undertake the necessary consultation with service providers in rural, regional, remote and very remote areas to ensure that adequate funds are allocated for the provision of dispute resolution services in those areas. Further, where videolink or telecommunications are to be used to provide dispute resolution services, the Government is to ensure that adequate funds are provided so that parties are given the opportunity to have an initial face-to-face outreach service.

Recommendation 9
3.155 Where parties are in a location which prevents them from attending an FRC, the first three hours of dispute resolution is provided to those parties free of charge, regardless of who provides the dispute resolution service.

Recommendation 10
3.174 That the Department immediately undertake a comprehensive analysis of the cost implications on current litigants, future litigants and the courts on maintaining two regimes for a period of three years for the determination of Part VII applications.

Recommendation 11
3.175 That the Attorney-General's Department develop and implement a comprehensive public information campaign to inform people of the impact of the amendments in the bill on existing parenting orders.

Recommendation 12
3.176 In the event of an increase of applications to the court to vary existing parenting orders once the amendments in the bill commence, that the Government provide the court with sufficient resources to adequately address the increase in applications.

Recommendation 13
3.191 That the Attorney-General's Department consult with the relevant State and Territory departments and agencies in relation to the operation of section 69ZW.

Recommendation 14
3.199 That the Department consult with National Legal Aid to ensure that the necessary resources are made available to meet any increased demand for children's lawyers.

Recommendation 15
3.217 The section 68R be reviewed to ensure the considerations to be taken into account are clear to all readers, and similarly the weighting to be given to each consideration, by the Court when exercising its powers under the section must also be clear.

Recommendation 16
3.218 The Committee recommends that subject to the preceding recommendations the bill proceed.




31 March 2006
Attorney-General
The Hon Philip Ruddock MP
Media Release 51/2006

FAMILY LAW AMENDMENT BILL PASSES THROUGH SENATE


The most significant changes to the Family Law Act in more than 30 years passed through the Senate last night, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has announced.

"The Shared Parental Responsibility Bill, which promotes a culture of cooperation rather than of litigation, constitutes the most significant reform of the family law system in 30 years," said Mr Ruddock.

"I welcome the Senate's passage of this important legislation."

Because of Senate amendments, the legislation will return to the House of Representatives when Parliament resumes in May, with the majority of the reforms to take effect from July 1 2006.

"The law will take the view that parenting is a responsibility which should be shared and, in most cases, parents will need to consult and agree on major issues affecting their children," said Mr Ruddock.

"Where both parents share responsibility, consideration will also be given to the children spending equal or at least substantial time with both parents - providing that this is practical and not contrary to the best interests of the child," he said.

As a result of an amendment by the Government in the Senate, once the new laws commence they will apply to people who are already in the court system seeking parenting orders and to all new applications for parenting orders.

"This Bill along with the massive expansion of support services and the planned roll-out of new Family Relationship Centres later this year demonstrates the Government's commitment to changing the culture around family separation," Mr Ruddock said.

"The major changes to the child support system and the launch of a Family Law Violence Strategy also reflects the holistic approach being taken to reform of the family law system," he said.




04 April 2006
First Family Relationship Centres announced


Attorney General Philip Ruddock announced the service providers for the new Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) today.


AG JOINT RELEASE & SPEECH
FAMILY RELATIONSHIP CENTRES AND SERVICES ONE STEP CLOSER TO REALITY


Organisations have been invited to start negotiating funding agreements to operate the first 15 Family Relationship Centres and 50 new services that will help families, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, announced today.

The Centres and massive expansion of family support services are the cornerstones of the Government's reforms to the family law system. The announcement today is a significant step towards the new Centres opening their doors to Australian families from July this year.

The Centres, supported by a telephone Advice Line and website, will help families to strengthen their relationships and, where families separate, help parents put aside their own differences and reach agreement on issues concerning their children without going to the courts.

Strong expressions of interest were received from organisations already delivering government-funded family relationship services as well as a number of new, private and community based providers - including many organisations which have joined together to make the best use of their varied experiences and expertise.

Organisations have also been invited to negotiate funding to operate other services, including 33 new early intervention services, to assist families. These services:

  • assist separated families to settle their disputes (Family Dispute Resolution);
  • help separated parents maintain contact with their children (Children's Contact Services);
  • help families in highly entrenched conflict (Contact Orders Program), and
  • assist all family members at various stages of their relationships, whether at the beginning, during or in the event of separation or divorce (Early Intervention Services).

Support and advice will also be available on parenting and grandparenting to help families build stronger, more positive relationships.

All organisations were selected through open, competitive processes and have strong experience in delivering effective relationship services for families.




24 May 2006
Commonwealth of Australia Law

Details of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 and the total Family Law Act consolidation


The new Family Law Act has been passed by parliament and recieved Royal Assent on 22/5/06. The new laws are effective from 1/7/06, and will apply to ANY orders made on or after that date, even for cases already in the system.

Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 No. 46, 2006 (PDF document 428kb)

Family Law Act 1975 Compilation 25 May 2006 (Incorporates amendments: Act No. 46 of 2006 (PDF document 1,5MB)




01 July 2006
Family Law legislation change round-up 2006


Twelve pieces of federal family law legislation are amended from 01 July 2006.
Here is a comprehensive list (as of July 1st), for updates go to www.comlaw.gov.au:

1. Family Law Act 1975

Family Law Act 1975 Compilation 25 May 2006 (Incorporates amendments: Act No. 46 of 2006) (PDF document 1,5MB)
Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 No. 46, 2006 (PDF document 428kb)
Jurisdiction of Courts (Family Law) Act 2006 - Proclamation 14 June 2006 (PDF document 224kb)


2. Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986

Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986, 23 December 2004 (PDF document 348kb)
Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 1), 22 June 2006 (PDF document 232kb)


3. Family Law Regulations 1984

Family Law Regulations 1984, 01 October 2005 (PDF document 552kb)
Family Law Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 1), 14 June 2006 (PDF document 304kb)


4. Family Law Rules 2004

Family Law Rules 2004 Volume 1, 01 February 2006 (PDF document 1,3MB)
Family Law Rules 2004 Volume 2, 01 February 2006 (PDF document 2,9MB)
Family Law Rules 2004 Volume 3, 01 February 2006 (PDF document 344kb)
Family Law Amendment Rules 2006 (No 1), 26 June 2006 (PDF document 2,1MB)


5. Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989

Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989, 21 June 2006 (PDF document 656kb)


6. Child Support (Assessment) Regulations 1989

Child Support (Assessment) Regulations 1989, 01 July 2004 (PDF document 64kb)
Child Support (Assessment) Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 1), 22 June 2006 (PDF document 232kb)


7. Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988

Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, 21 June 2006 (PDF document 428kb)
Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2006, 06 April 2006 (PDF document 80kb)


8. Child Support (Registration and Collection) Regulations 1988

Child Support (Registration and Collection) Regulations 1988, 18 June 2004 (PDF document 44kb)
Child Support (Registration and Collection) Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 1), 22 June 2006 (PDF document 232kb)

Child Support (Assessment) (Overseas-related Maintenance Obligations) Regulations 2000, 15 October 2001 (PDF document 52kb)
Child Support (Assessment) (Overseas-related Maintenance Obligations) Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 1), 22 June 2006 (PDF document 228kb)


9. Federal Magistrates Act 1999

Federal Magistrates Act 1999, 25 May 2006 (PDF document 228kb)


10. Federal Magistrates Regulations 2000

Federal Magistrates Regulations 2000, 04 May 2006 (PDF document 264kb)
Federal Magistrates Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 2), 14 June 2006 (PDF document 228kb)


11. Marriage Act 1961

Marriage Act 1961, 25 May 2006 (PDF document 252kb)


12. Marriage Regulations 1963

Marriage Regulations 1963, 17 June 2005 (PDF document 624kb)
Marriage Amendment Regulations 2006 (No. 1), 14 June 2006 (PDF document 228kb)




15 September 2006
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

Child Support Legislation Amendment Bill 2006 introduced to Parliament


The Child Support Legislation Amendment (Reform of the Child Support Scheme - New Formula and Other Measures) Bill 2006 has been introduced to Parliament today by the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Honourable Mal Brough MP.

The Bill provides the legislative basis for stages two and three of the Government's major overhaul of the Child Support Scheme ('the Scheme'), flowing from the recommendations of the Ministerial Taskforce on Child Support, chaired by Professor Patrick Parkinson, and following up the stage 1 reforms enacted on 1 July 2006.

Child Support Legislation Amendment (Reform of the Child Support Scheme - New Formula and Other Measures) Bill 2006 (PDF document 764 kb)


Inquiry into Child Support Legislation Amendment (Reform of the Child Support Scheme - New Formula and Other Measures) Bill 2006

The Senate, on the recommendation of the Selection of Bills Committee, has referred the provisions of the above Bill to the Committee for inquiry and report by 10 October 2006.

The Committee intends to hold a public hearing on the Bill in Melbourne on 29 September and in Canberra on 4 October 2006.


Public Hearings and Transcripts

Melbourne 29 September 2006 (PDF document 240kb)
Canberra 04 October 2006 (PDF document 464kb)




09 November 2006
The Melbourne Age

Child support changes pass Senate


Long-awaited changes to Australia's child support system have passed the federal parliament, overhauling the way parents are assessed for payments. The laws introduce a new formula for calculating liabilities, so that parents' incomes and living costs are treated more equally and child support payments will not be based on a fixed percentage of income. The new formula takes account of the added costs of caring for teenagers and gives non-resident parents a discount on their payments if they look after their child or children at least one night a week. For the first time, the incomes of both custodial and non-custodial parents will be given equal weight.

The changes follow a parliamentary investigation into Australia's child support system which found widespread dissatisfaction with the existing regime. Government minister Rod Kemp said the bill complemented the government's family law reforms and was a response to concerns about the child support system. "This will ensure that the scheme works in the best interests of children, while balancing the interests of parents and reflecting community expectations," he told the Senate. "The community has expressed concern about how children and their parents have coped following marriage and relationship breakdown. "The new scheme is based on fairness to both parents and is focused on the needs and costs of children." "These improvements should reduce conflict between parents about parenting arrangements and encourage shared parental responsibility." "The new formula, which takes effect in July 2008, was based on expert research on the cost of raising children," Senator Kemp said.

Labor, while welcoming much of the bill, warned of difficulties. Opposition Senate leader Chris Evans unsuccessfully moved an amendment which said low income families who may lose income because of the changes were not protected. It said the government had failed to manage transitional problems for parents who may be worse off, as recommended by its own taskforce. Senator Evans also criticised the lack of time for a Senate committee to examine the bill, which was "overly complex".

Senate Hansard 09 November 2006 (PDF document 1,3MB)




21 April 2007
Australian Government

NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR FAMILY DISPUTE RESOLUTION


The Government has announced new regulations that will govern the introduction of compulsory dispute resolution in custody cases and the accreditation of family dispute resolution practitioners.

From 1 July, courts will not be able to hear an application for a parenting order in a new case unless the person seeking the order first obtains a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner. There are some exceptions, such as in cases of family violence or child abuse.

All family dispute resolution practitioners must be included on a new family dispute resolution register in order to issue valid certificates. Accreditation rules are also being introduced to ensure that families receive quality family dispute resolution services.

"The changes reflect the Australian Government's desire to change the culture of parenting disputes from confrontation to co-operation. We would like to see parents negotiate, not litigate," said Mr Ruddock.

"Family dispute resolution practitioners and others working in the family law system have an integral role to play in helping families sit down and talk about the arrangements for their children rather than fighting it out in long and costly court battles."

To help people working in the family law system implement the new requirements, information sessions will be held in all major capital cities and some regional locations across Australia during May 2007.

Further details about the changes and the dates and locations of information sessions are available at OLE_LINK
www.ag.gov.au/fdrproviders.




27 April 2007
Family Court of Australia
Media Release

"Finding a better way" - less adversarial trials in the Family Court


The Family Court of Australia has implemented a significant reform in court procedures with less adversarial trials that involve a more informal and less complex legal process as judges take on a more involved role in family law cases involving disputes over children.

Less adversarial trials are a major shift away from the traditional common law adversarial approach in Australia's family law system. These trials take on aspects of European approaches that are more child focused and reduce the likelihood of hostile cross-examination of parties and witnesses.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant, is launching the publication "Finding a Better Way" in Sydney today, an account of the history and experience of achieving this change. The Chief Justice said less adversarial trials were a better way to decide disputes between separating parents when the best interests of children was the paramount concern.

Click here to view the report Finding A Better Way: A Bold Departure from the Traditional Common Law Approach to the Conduct of Legal Proceedings by Margaret Harrison, April 2007

Finding a better way (PDF Document 672kb)




15 May 2007
Australian Government

Minister launches relationship resource - Keys to Living Together


On 15 May 2007 the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs launched a new suite of relationship education resources, Keys to Living Together. These resources are interactive providing information, tips and practical activities to assist families in building stronger and healthier relationships. Each Keys to Living Together kit consists of a DVD and mini magazine.

To order free Keys to Living DVDs go to
http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/families/pubs/keys_info/Pages/default.aspx


Keys to Living Together - Taking the first step provides the information you need to develop your own set of relationship tools. Taking the first step and making a significant commitment to someone you love is one of the most exciting and important times in your relationship.
Keys to Living Together - Taking the first step (PDF document 788kb)

Keys to Living Together - Instant families provides information to help you make the transition a little smoother. Creating a new relationship and with it a new family is an exciting and important time, that can often also be very complicated.
Keys to Living Together - Instant families (PDF document 1MB)

Keys to Living Together - Then we were three provides information to help you develop tools to deal with the changes in your relationship. Going from a couple to a family with a child is one of the most exciting and important times in your relationship. It is impossible to ignore the fact that your lives are about to be transformed forever.
Keys to Living Together - Then we were three (PDF document 900kb)

Keys to Living Together - Staying Strong includes information and tips to help you stay strong as a couple and a family as you deal with the challenges of rural life. Whether you live in a remote community, on a farm, in a small country town or a regional centre, there are issues unique to rural life that can have an impact on your relationships.
Keys to Living Together - Staying Strong (PDF document 2MB)

Keys to Living Together - Life-changing journeys includes information and tips to help you deal with the many changes and challenges you may encounter. Having children is one of the most exciting and important times in your life. But realising your child has disability means supporting each other and working as a team is more important than ever.
Key to Living together - Life-changing journeys (PDF document 2,3MB)




11 April 2008
Child Support Agency

Child Support Scheme reforms


With over 700,000 separated families and 1.4 million separated parents now in Australia, the Child Support Scheme is undergoing significant changes to ensure it:

  • better reflects community values around shared parenting
  • better balances the interests of parents and children
  • treats both parents' incomes and living costs more equally
  • treats children from first and second families more equally, and
  • helps separated parents to maintain contact with their children.
You will find information on:
  • how, when and why the Child Support Scheme is changing, and how these changes will affect you
  • detailed information about the changes to child support and family assistance
  • the Child Support - Family Assistance estimator. You may be able to use this resource to estimate what your new child support or family assistance payments might be. This will apply from 1 July 2008.
  • worksheets, tables and examples to help you estimate what your new child support assessment might be
  • the new Guide, contains legal and policy information about CSA's view of the new Child Support Scheme and its administration
  • details on the new formula that will be used to calculate child support
  • frequently updated questions and answers based on feedback from customers
  • fact sheets, brochures, newsletters and eBulletins with information about the new scheme
  • advertising materials about the new Scheme and the Child Support Agency (CSA).


The new Child Support Scheme and changes to Family Assistance

From 1 July 2008, the Australian Child Support Scheme will change. All parents who pay or receive child support will be affected, even if you work out your own private payment arrangements.

This information explains how changes to the Scheme will affect your child support payments and family assistance from 1 July 2008.

The new Child Support Scheme and changes to Family Assistance (PDF document 3MB)


The new formula: Changes to how child support is calculated

Each parent's income will be considered in exactly the same way and combined to work out the costs of the children. Each parent's share of the total income will show how much of the children's costs they should meet.

Broader range of incomes used

A broader, simpler range of income amounts will be used to work out your child support and family assistance payments, for both parents. These amounts are:

  • Your taxable income will be used
    This is the income shown on your tax return. While the new formula will continue to use taxable income, the change to how it's used is reflected in how we work out the costs of children - the impact of tax on your disposable income is taken into account.

  • Gross reportable fringe benefits total will be included
    This is the value of gross reportable fringe benefits total for the income year, which is reported on your payment summary. Or ask your employer to tell you the expected amount for the year. A fringe benefit is a benefit provided to you because of your employment. Examples may include using a work car privately, low or no interest loans for employees, or a living away from home allowance.

  • Target foreign income will be included
    This is any foreign income you receive that is not taxable income or a fringe benefit.

  • Net rental property losses will be added back on
    A net rental property loss is where you have a rental property and the costs outweigh the income. We will add any loss back on to your taxable income for child support and family assistance purposes.

  • Some tax-free pensions or benefits will be included
    This includes disability support pensions, wife pensions and carer payments. It also includes the following payments from the Department of Veterans' Affairs:
    • invalidity service pension
    • partner service pension
    • income support supplement
    • Defence Force income support allowance
Important information for people receiving family assistance

The family assistance income test
The income test will continue to affect your family assistance in the same way it does now.
  • For every dollar you earn over the Income Free Area, currently $41,318, your Family Tax Benefit Part A will reduce by 20 cents until your Family Tax Benefit reduces to the minimum rate.
  • For every dollar you earn over the Higher Income Free Area, currently $91,542 plus $3,650 for each child after the first, your rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A will reduce by 30 cents until no Family Tax Benefit Part A is payable.
If your income details change

It's important that you tell the Child Support Agency and Centrelink about changes to your income as soon as it happens, because we may not be able to backdate the change.




19 October 2009
The Australian

Shared parenting laws on way out

By Caroline Overington

The Rudd government is planning to roll back the controversial shared parenting law passed in the final term of the Howard government, enraging men's groups, which say the laws have finally given them access to their children after separation.

Six inquiries into the shared parenting laws are now under way, which men's groups have interpreted as a sure sign that change is under way, too.

In a message to supporters, Sue Price of the Men's Rights Agency, has described the planned rollback as the "most sustained and concerted attack" on shared parenting that she has seen in 15 years.

Ms Price said the laws did no more than encourage "reasonable contact between perfectly good fathers and their children" and she is urging supporters to "convince the Rudd government that there are a million votes at stake" if they roll back the shared parenting changes.

"War has been declared and now is the time to protest the changes," Ms Price said, adding that planned changes were an attempt to "deny children shared parenting" and "an attack on a child's right to be loved and cared for by a dad on a shared-care, equal basis".

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, in concert with the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, flagged a change to the law after a small child, Darcey Freeman, died after allegedly being thrown from the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne earlier this year. Her father, Arthur Freeman, has been charged with murder. In a committal hearing, the court heard that the mother had been terrified of her former partner, and told neighbours and others that he was certain to kill one of her children.

Of the six inquiries into the law under way, the Family Court Violence Review, also known as the Chisholm report, for its chairman, former Family Court judge Professor Richard Chisholm, is likely to report to Mr McClelland first.

Submissions to the Chisholm inquiry closed on Friday. In one submission, the National Council for Children Post-Separation, which largely represents the interests of separated mothers, has examples of women forced into contact with violent partners, after those partners won the right to see their children in the Family Court.

The council says some men are approaching the court, asking for years-old parenting agreements to be modified so they can pay less child support. Under the Howard government reforms, men can pay less, in exchange for seeing their children more.

The submission says: "Parents are saying they don't want money. They would be happy to forgo maintenance payments if it saves their child from having to spend half the week with a parent who does not really want to parent them, but whose main objective is to avoid child support."

The submission also calls on the Family Court to consider the parenting roles played by each parent before separation, before deciding on shared or equal care after separation.

"Some parents abandon their spouse while pregnant and years later seek shared care when the child does not even know the parent," the submission says.

"One nine-year-old boy who considered he already had a father, since his mother married his stepfather when he was a baby, was told he had to spend every second weekend with his biological father.

"If there is no existing emotional bond between a child and a parent, why should the court force one on a child who may have an emotional bond with a step-parent?"

More than 3500 parents have signed a petition calling for the changes to the shared parenting law.

A submission from men's groups was not immediately available yesterday. The Shared Parenting Council says the six reviews of the law were placing "significant pressure" on the groups, which are "holding the line against a dismantling of the 2006 Family Law changes".

Besides the Chisholm review, the Attorney-General has commissioned the University of South Australia, James Cook University and Monash University to investigate the impact of family violence during and after parental relationship breakdown. This review will be overseen by professor Thea Brown.

The Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW is also conducting a review, as are the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the University of Sydney.




28 January 2010
ATTORNEY-GENERAL
ROBERT McCLELLAND MP

RELEASE OF FAMILY LAW REVIEWS


Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, today released key reports examining the operation of the family law system and how the family law courts deal with cases involving family violence.

The reports provide a comprehensive and objective analysis of the family law system against the aim of providing fair and sustainable solutions for families, while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children, Mr McClelland said.

The Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) looks at the impact of changes which included:

  • introducing a presumption of shared parental responsibility into the Family Law Act 1975;

  • requiring separating parents to attend family dispute resolution before going to court, with some limited exceptions, including where there were issues relating to family violence; and

  • establishing Family Relationship Centres to provide information, advice and assistance to families with relationship difficulties.
The AIFS evaluation finds that the principle of shared parental responsibility is widely supported, although it is often misconstrued as requiring equal shared care time and, according to AIFS, has led to unrealistic expectations among some parents.

The AIFS evaluation reports that the majority of parents in shared care arrangements believed they were working well, but there were concerns where ongoing fear of violence existed.

In addition, there has been a shift away from using the family law courts, with more separated parents using family dispute resolution services and consequently fewer disputes being resolved through litigation.

The Family Courts Violence Review , conducted by Professor Richard Chisholm AM, and Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System, conducted by the Family Law Council, examines the effectiveness of legislation as well as court practices and procedures in cases involving family violence.

Importantly, both the AIFS evaluation and these reviews find that the family law system has some way to go in effectively responding to issues relating to family violence.

The reports highlight issues relating to the screening and handling of family violence as well as legislative provisions that potentially deter the disclosure of allegations.

The Government is committed to improving the family law system so that separated families can effectively access the help they need and disputes can be resolved in the best interests of children.

The Government will carefully consider the findings and recommendations of these reports, as well as other associated research, before outlining its response in due course.



Downloads:

Family Courts Violence Review by Professor Richard Chisholm AM 2009 (PDF document 1MB)
Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System 2009 (PDF document 584kb)

AIFS: Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms - Full Report (PDF document 5,7MB)
AIFS: Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms - Summary Report (PDF document 744kb)




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