By Claire Matthews
The new Family Law Amendment Bill is designed to make things easier for vulnerable people, but needs more clarity on how the proposed scheme will work.
The Law Council of Australia strongly supports the bill, but is asking for more transparency on how it will affect people and interact with current laws.
President of the Law Council Dr Jacoba Brasch QC said the proposed bill might impact how vulnerable families can get support from the courts.
“While the Bill is designed to make things easier for vulnerable people, we are looking for some clarity on how the proposed scheme will actually work and how it would interact with existing state and territory Family Violence Order regimes.
“The Law Council is also concerned about the potential impact of this scheme on the workload of federal family law courts.”
Dr Brasch QC said the bill affects how families can get protection from state and territory courts and may make things more difficult.
“It appears that the proposed Bill only allows for a person experiencing family violence, who has proceedings before the family law courts, to seek a final Federal Family Violence Order (FFVO) and not an interim order.
“This means that a person experiencing family violence and who needs urgent or immediate protection, will still seek remedies from the state and territory courts. It is also not clear how a person would apply for and obtain a FFVO, and when that might happen.
“We are also concerned that the Bill may inadvertently create opportunities for perpetrators of family violence to delay determination of family violence and family law issues, by increasing the number, length and cost of family law and family violence proceedings through an additional FFVO pathway.”
The solution is for government, legal bodies and support services to work together to provide the best service for families in need, said Dr Brasch QC.
“It is critical that the government engage closely with the courts and legal assistance bodies to ensure that any measures proposed are accompanied by adequate resourcing for the courts, their support services, and the legal assistance sector, to cope with the additional workload we envisage will arise should the FFVO regime come into effect.”