The review of the family law system is big news right now. At MELCA we are glad to see that the terms of reference include consideration of changes that are necessary or desirable in relation to aspects of separation and divorce that are at the core of our vision and values, such as:
- the appropriate, early and cost-effective resolution of all family law disputes;
- the protection of the best interests of children and their safety;
- family law services, including (but not limited to) dispute resolution services;
- the best ways to inform decision-makers about the best interests of children, and the views held by children in family disputes
- whether the adversarial court system offers the best way to support the safety of families and resolve matters in the best interests of children, and the opportunities for less adversarial resolution of parenting and property disputes;
- rules of procedure, and rules of evidence, that would best support high quality decision‑making in family disputes
- families with complex needs, including where there is family violence, drug or alcohol addiction or serious mental illness;
- the underlying substantive rules and general legal principles in relation to parenting and property;
- the skills, including but not limited to legal, required of professionals in the family law system;
- improving the clarity and accessibility of the law;
This is an opportunity that MELCA has anticipated for many years, because we know that families are not at all well served by the current system. It is an old-law approach, cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming. You cannot make a business case for running a family law system in this way. The clients of the system are damaged by it emotionally and financially, children are not rescued from the negative impacts of their parents’ separation, conflict is increased, there is no certainty of outcome, the social sciences and financial advisors are not given proper roles, and it takes a toll on all those who go there, lawyers and clients alike.
Input is sought from members of the community as well as the experts who work in the system. To see the full terms of reference and to learn how to have your say, go to: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2017/ThirdQuarter/First-comprehensive-review-of-the-family-law-act-27-September-2017.aspx
Our favourite question for review is:
“Whether the adversarial court system offers the best way to support the safety of families and resolve matters in the best interests of children, and the opportunities for less adversarial resolution of parenting and property disputes?”
We think that asking if the adversarial system is the best way to provide “opportunities for less adversarial resolution” is a question that answers itself, but to avoid doubt, our submission will be that the answer to this question is “No”. “Never”. “Not possible”.