An end to the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility? Important changes to the Family Law Act

An end to the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility? Important changes to the Family Law Act

By Stefan Pantellis (Senior Associate) and Monica Blizzard (Director)

Significant amendments to Australia’s family law system were passed by the Federal Parliament on 19 October 2023. The changes follow recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2019 which aim to make the system simpler, safer, and more accessible for separating families and their children.

Equal shared parental responsibility

Notably, the presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility” has now been repealed. This includes the requirement for the Court to consider whether children spending equal time with each of the parents would be in the best interests of the child and is reasonably practicable. Under the new laws, parenting decisions will have to be based solely on what is in the best interests of the child.

Other key amendments

The recent amendments also include the following:

  • The requirement for Independent Children’s Lawyers to meet directly with children.
  • Greater powers to protect parties and children from harmful effects of protracted and adversarial litigation.
  • A definition of ‘member of the family’ that is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of family and kinship.
  • Simplified compliance and enforcement provisions for child-related orders.
  • Powers to enable government to regulate family report writers.
  • Ensuring that children’s voices are heard more easily in matters under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In addition, the introduction of information-sharing legislation is aimed to ensure that Courts have access to information from police, child protection, and firearms agencies about family violence, child abuse and neglect that could place children at risk.

The introduction of the above legislation is intended to ensure family law matters are resolved quickly, safely, and inexpensively without compromising the safety of family members.

If you have any questions in relation to the changes, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our Family & Relationship Law team via or by calling (03) 9663 9877.

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