NSW alliance supports new family law bill

Date: May 26, 2011

Hundreds of lobbyists descended on Canberra this week to encourage the federal government to pass the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011.

The Canberra Times reported that the advocates - who represent children's organisations, charities that support victims of domestic violence and women's refuges - travelled from throughout New South Wales in support of the legislation.

Calling themselves the Safety for Children Alliance, the group claims the new legislation would make it harder for violent partners to receive parenting orders that the children live with them in the event of a divorce settlement.

Catherine Gander, the executive director of the New South Wales Women's Refuge movement, asserted that the new legislation would ensure better rights for children.

She told the newspaper: ''Many of the parents and children we see who are engaged in Family Court processes are in danger of ongoing exposure to violence because the current Family Law Act's presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is putting the principle of shared parenting ahead of the safety of children."

Earlier this week, attorney-general Robert McClelland spoke out in support of the bill, which is set to be debated in the House of Representatives this week.

He commented that the new legislation aims to "create a safer and fairer family law system" that prioritises children's safety.

"The bill continues to promote a child's right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, but with one key difference - it emphasises that the child's safety must come first in situations where there is conflict," Mr McClelland explained.

He added that while the government will continue to support shared care, this will only be in situations where the child is safe.

Mr McLelland made his remarks after the government received reports on the family law system from the Family Law Council, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Professor Richard Chisholm.

The report noted that while 60 per cent of separated parents claim to enjoy a co-operative or friendly inter-parental relationship, one in five identified safety concerns for themselves or their children due to ongoing contact with the other parent.

Furthermore, the study found that nearly one in four parents experienced an incident of family violence before their separation.

While many separating parents can work out the future arrangements for their children between themselves, those who cannot come to an agreement should seek the assistance of a family lawyer.

Legally, parents are obliged to attempt to resolve their differences through mediation. Lawyers can then draft parenting orders, which are made by consent, to reflect what has been agreed in the mediation process.