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Putting safety first in family law

Recent legislative developments in Australia are expected to make significant changes to the way that family law decisions are made.

"These changes are a step in the right direction", says Angela Lynch, national law reform coordinator for Women’s Legal Services Australia, "because where safety is a concern, the law will now prioritise a consideration of the protection of children, over an ongoing meaningful relationship with another parent. The changes also broaden the definition of family violence and abuse, to better encapsulate the experience of victims and their children.” 

"These amendments are vitally important to increase the protection of women and children in family violence situations because men who are violent can use legal processes to intimidate, harass and exert ongoing power and control over their families, after a separation."

Although the changes are welcome, Women's Legal Services do not believe they go far enough, as they do not remove the emphasis in the legislation on shared parenting or the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.

Angela Lynch says that "the emphasis on shared parenting, over and above other parenting outcomes, places children and other family members who have experienced domestic violence in danger."

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