Amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Midland Information Debt & Legal Advocacy Service Inc (MIDLAS) provides a free Domestic violence Legal service for victims of domestic violence living in the North East of Perth.  Our dedicated and professional team believe strongly in keeping our community informed and up to date with relevant and new legislation.

Significant changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FLA) came into effect on 7 June 2012.  The changes apply only to children of a marriage and primarily concern the protection and promotion of the child’s best interests.  It is thought that the Western Australia Parliament will follow suit and introduce similar laws under the Family Court Act 1997 (WA), which applies to children of a de facto relationship.  Until that time however, WA will have two different definitions, operations and obligations.

The most significant amendment made to the FLA is the broadening of the definition of “family violence” and “abuse.”  The new definition of family violence emphasises the reality that family violence is not limited to physical violence.  The definition clearly dispels the myth that family violence is only physical and includes any behaviour that coerces controls or causes an individual to be fearful.  The section also provides examples of behaviour that would be defined as “family violence.”  Furthermore, the widened definition of “abuse” now includes “serious psychological harm” including (but not limited to) being subjected to or exposed to family violence (s4BA) and “serious neglect.”

Prior to the amendments, the Family Court was required to determine the child’s best interests by considering the benefit the child would have from a meaningful relationship with both parents.  Additionally, the Court needed to consider the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.  While these considerations still stand, the amendments required the Court to give greater weight to the need to protect the child from harm.  These amendments, in light of the broadened definition of “family violence” and “abuse,” go directly towards enhancing the protection of children.

Protecting children from harm is reinforced in the amendment that requires the Court to take prompt action in relation to allegations of child abuse or family violence.  Where a party files a notice that there has been child abuse or family violence, the Court must consider what orders should be made to allow appropriate evidence regarding the allegations to be obtained, and orders to protect the child (or any other parties) in the proceedings.

The MIDLAS legal service endeavours to assist individuals who are experiencing domestic violence.  The service provided includes preliminary family law advice and information, especially where family violence is apparent.  The recent amendments made to the FLA improve the protection offered to children that are experiencing family violence or abuse.  If you are in a situation of family or domestic violence, please contact MIDLAS on 9250 2123.  Or visit our website for further information: www.midlas.org.au

For more information of the family law amendments, please visit:  http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/bill/fllavaomb2011623/

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