A better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence: Recommendations for an accessible, equitable and responsive family law system which better prioritises safety of those affected by family violence


This report presents the findings of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs inquiry into Australia’s family law system, and recommendations to improve its response to families impacted by family violence. The report advocates for an accessible, equitable and responsive family law system which better prioritises the safety of families.

Key concerns are identified including:

  • the difficulties posed by an adversarial family law system;
  • the existence of inappropriate responses to reports of family violence;
  • that legal fees and complex court procedures which reduce the accessibility of the family law system; and
  • the complexity in navigating state, territory, and federal jurisdictions.

The Committee expresses concern that the current design of the family law system can fail to support and protect families affected by family violence, and proposes the exploration of reform for the current family law system.

In Chapter 7 the Committee acknowledges that the family law system can be particularly difficult for some groups to access. The Committee recognises the significant work that the Family Law Council has completed in relation to the family law system as it related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and culturally and linguistically diverse families, and suggests that previous recommendations from the Family Law Council are implemented.

The Committee’s recommendations relate to reducing the complexity of the family law and court systems, implementing stronger, more uniform processes across jurisdictions, penalizing abuse of process, requiring Courts to consider family violence earlier in any processes, avoiding financial abuse and hardship, supporting fairer property settlements, prioritizing children’s safety with the family law system and court processes, and increasing the acceptance of children’s perspectives to family law matters. The Committee examined the resourcing constraints of the family law system, including capacity of family law professionals (legal, civil and court), the training of these professionals and the lack of accreditation for some consultants.

Finally, the Committee acknowledged that violence and risk can continue after family law matters are resolved, and that better on-going support is needed. The Committee also recognises the importance of evidence-based, evaluated, and best practice behaviour change programs in the ongoing safety of families which have experienced family violence and makes recommendations for the incorporation and expansion of programs within existing services.

The inquiry also notes the early signs of success of the Australian Government’s new Family Advocacy and Support Services program and recommends the extension of this program, subject to a positive evaluation, including into regional Australia.

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