The Commonwealth Attorney-General recently released the Interim Report by the Family Law Council on Families with Complex Needs and the Intersection of the Family Law and Child Protection Systems.
This report looked at the first two terms of reference which relate to:
i. the possibilities for transferring proceedings between the State and Commonwealth judicial systems in relation to family law and child protection; and
ii. the possible benefits of enabling the Commonwealth courts to exercise powers of the relevant State courts and vice versa.
The report made six recommendations. The first four recommendations related to the practicalities of the state courts making parenting orders. Currently the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA) provides jurisdiction only to State courts of summary jurisdiction to make family law orders under Part VII of the FLA. It was recommended that this limitation be removed to provide jurisdiction any court dealing with family law or child protection matters.
Currently where a State court makes an order that revives, varies or suspends a parenting or other child related order, the state court order is only effective for a maximum of 21 days (section 68T FLA). The report recommends this limitation be removed.
The two recommendations relating to the second term of reference were directed towards actions by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). These multi-point recommendations include amongst other items:
• the development of a national database of court orders so that each jurisdiction has access to orders made in all jurisdictions;
• the amendment of State legislation relating to the publication of reports prepared in child protection matters to clarify that such reports can be made available in family law proceedings;
• co-location of state child protection department practitioners in Federal Family Court registries;
• the development of consistent terminology across State and Commonwealth legislation;
• the development of dual competencies for Independent Children’s Lawyers to achieve continuity of representation for children.
The full report can be viewed here.
The final report is due by 30 June 2016.