The Australian Institute of Family Studies has recently conducted an evaluation of the 2012 Family Law Act 1975 amendments that were designed to improve responses to family violence and child abuse.
From 7 June 2012 changes were made to the Family Law Act 1975 as follows [see www.ag.gov.au/familyviolenceact]:
- To prioritise the safety of children in parenting matters by giving greater weight to the protection of from harm when determining what is in a child’s 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 child’s best interests.
- Strengthen advisors 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.
The evaluation by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found the reforms had improved the identification of family violence and screening practices which has led to modest, positive shifts in parenting arrangements when children’s safety was a concern.
See Australian Institute of Family Studies Media Release dated 12 October 2015.