Evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms


Changes to the Australian family law system in 2006 were designed to reduce separations, encourage greater involvement by both parents in children’s lives, protect children from violence and abuse, reduce litigation about children through improved information and dispute resolution services, and improve access to other family services. This was to be achieved through introducing a presumption of shared parental responsibility, requiring separating parents to attend family dispute resolution prior to going to court (with some exceptions, including family violence), and establishing family relationship centres to offer advice, information and access to services. In evaluating the impact of these changes, this review found increased use of relationship services and a decline in parental recourse to courts. However, the many families troubled by violence, safety concerns, mental health problems and drug and alcohol addiction continue to present complex challenges to the system, including determining whether family dispute resolution in appropriate. Responses need to address the wider issues, not just the parenting ones, particularly where child safety is concerned and ensure that the wellbeing of children remains of paramount importance.

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