The Federal Government has announced that the Australian Law Reform Commission will undertake the most comprehensive review of the Family Law System since 1976.
While there is some disagreement between the Opposition and Government in relation to some aspects of the review, it is expected that there will be a focus on the adversarial nature of family law cases, in particular property settlements and parenting matters following separations. Further areas anticipated to receive a large degree of attention from the review is how the system can better support families, reduce legal costs and resolve cases more quickly. This includes looking at ways to avoid long and expensive cases, and whether having the party’s lawyers arguing cases before a Judge is the best way to settle disputes as opposed to mediation and other avenues of dispute resolution.
The Australian Law Council welcomed the wholesale review but warned that any meaningful, long-term reform needed significant funding, including more funding for support services for victims of family violence and financial abuse. In the 2017 Budget, the Government earmarked approximately $80 million for the family law system, part of which was dedicated to these services.
The review will be led by Professor Helen Rhoades and the Australian Law Reform Commission is expected to provide a report following the completion of the review in March 2019.