New laws proposed by the Federal Government would introduce streamlined parenting hearings and preventing victims of family violence from being confronted by alleged attackers.
Following a review of the Family Law Act, the changes are expected to help reduce bottlenecks and long waiting periods in the Family Court, and reassure victims of violence of their safety in the system.
Parental Management Hearings for smarter dispute resolution
The new laws propose a $12.7 million investment in parental management hearings to resolve family law disputes.
The hearings are a new approach to resolving less complex family law disputes where both parties are representing themselves. In 2015-16, 44% of cases before the Family Court involved self-represented parties.
Designed as a less adversarial approach, the hearings will gather evidence from both sides to make decisions in the best interests of children and families.
Planned for a trial in Parramatta, the hearings would be rolled out across all relevant Australian jurisdictions.
No face-to-face contact protects victims of family violence
Current laws still allow for the victims of domestic and family violence to be cross-examined by their attacker who has been charged or convicted, or by an alleged offender.
The draft laws propose new rules preventing victims of family violence from being personally cross-examined by convicted or alleged perpetrators, or be required to cross-examine the convicted or alleged perpetrator if they are representing themselves. Instead, the court will appoint another party to undertake the cross-examination.
The new approach is a response to concerns that this interaction may further traumatise victims of violence, and the fear of facing attackers in court contributes to victims not reporting family violence.
Critics say the changes don’t go far enough, and that to protect victims, legal representation should be required for both parties, so family lawyers with expertise in these types of cases are a ‘buffer’ between the victim and the alleged abuser.
Public consultation has now closed on the issues, with a report expected in 2018.
Help when you need it
Family law can be a complex area – it can be emotionally draining for parents and children. Our specialist family law team are experts in dispute resolution and in supporting you through the Family Court hearing process. At the heart of our approach is maintaining your family relationships and acting in the best interests of your children. Contact Conditsis Lawyers today.