The Prime Minister has announced the Government will undertake a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both the House and the Senate to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the family law system.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the review would look at whether the current system, which is intended to support parents and children during the end of a relationship, is fit for purpose.
“We want to ensure families can resolve issues as quickly and fairly as possible, so everyone can move on with their lives,” the Prime Minister said.
“This inquiry will allow the Parliament to hear directly from families and listen to them as they give their accounts of how the family law system has been impacting them and how it interacts with the child support system.
“This is a serious issue that has been raised by Members and Senators across the Parliament and I look forward to the Parliament working together through this Committee to bring forward recommendations that look at how the system can be improved.”
The inquiry will have broad terms of reference and be led by the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, who has considerable experience as both an MP and Minister in dealing with these issues.
The Government has already proposed substantial reform in some relevant family law structures, such as the merger of the two courts that primarily deal with family law matters – the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court. This reform, which will be re-introduced before the end of 2019, is focused on helping parents resolve issues at the end of their relationship as simply, quickly and cheaply as possible.
The Government is also considering the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission report into family law which was released in April this year and will respond in full to all of those recommendations relating to the design of multiple important provisions in the Family Law Act 1974.
Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations the Hon Christian Porter MP said the Select Committee’s focus would be on specific areas where there may be scope for improvement in the family law system, the courts or other policy areas such as child support.
It will also look at how the family law system, state and territory child protection systems and family and domestic violence jurisdictions can communicate better.
“Amongst other issues, it will address important operational issues of enforcement of court orders and legal costs to families of family law proceedings, with a particular focus on instances where legal fees are disproportionate to the total asset pool or issues in dispute,” said the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations.
“Importantly for older Australians who find themselves taking on the parental role for grandchildren, the Committee will have a particular focus on issues affecting grandparent carers in family law matters and family court proceedings.”
A motion to establish the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee will today be considered by the Senate.
The proposed Terms of Reference, to be considered by the Senate this afternoon, are attached.