Proposed changes to the Family Law Act 1975

Date: Sep 08, 2014

The way a parent is defined in some sections of the Family Law Act 1975 may change due to recommendations made in a new report. 

The Family Law Council's Report on Parentage and the Family Law Act makes 19 recommendations to the Australian government in regards to if the outcome of a family law matter is influenced by how a child's family was formed and who is a parent in the eyes of the law.

The Family Law Act 1975 is the key instrument used in Australia to determine issues that arise from relationship breakdowns, including financial matters and the parental responsibility of the children of the relationship.

A brief look at the the recommendations 

The first recommendation made in the report was for the Australian government to "conduct a comprehensive review and revision of the decision making provisions of Part VII of the Family Law Act to ensure that it provides a consistent approach to decision making for all children regardless of their family form". 

Part VII of the Family Law Act provides for three territories of Australia: Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Island. It is recommended that the term "parent" be changed in this part of the act that concerns "the decision making framework for parenting orders". The recommended amendment is to make the term inclusive and be changed to "other significant adults" or "other people of significance to the child".

Another recommendation in the report in regards to parents is that the reference to "both" of the parents be removed from section 60B(1) and section 60CC(2)(a) of the act. This is due to an increase in family diversity and who children consider as their parents has lead to societal change.

S 60B(1) is related to both parents having "a meaningful involvement" in their children's lives as is in the best interest of the child. Determining the best interests of the child is outlined in s 60CC of the act. S 60CC(2)(a) states that a primary consideration in assessing what outcome will be in the best interests of the child is whether the young person in question will have a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Other recommendations in the report include determining the best interests of children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island origin and that more than two people may be significant others under Part VII. The report also includes recommendations for the introduction of a Status of Children Act, surrogacy and the transfer of parenting process, and the parental status of donors. 

The report was commissioned in response to the request by the late Attorney-General. An August 14 press release from the current Attorney-General George Brandis states that the government is currently considering the recommendations made in the report.