Family Law Act improves protection of children

19-February-2013 Family Law By Simone Green

In June 2012, several changes were made to the Family Law Act to better protect children and families at risk of violence and abuse.

Amendments made by the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth) seek to improve the protection of families by:

  1. Prioritising the safety of children in parenting matters;
  2. Changing the definitions of “abuse” and “family violence” to better capture harmful behaviour;
  3. Strengthening adviser’s obligations by requiring family consultants, family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners and legal practitioners to prioritise the safety of children;
  4. Ensuring courts have better access to evidence of abuse and family violence by improving reporting requirements; and
  5. Making it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings where appropriate.

Streeterlaw Accredited Specialist, Simone Green, a specialist in Family Law, said these changes mean there is now no requirement to establish the reasonable nature of any fear that the victim experiences as a result of the violence.

“All fear that a victim experiences as a result of violence or abuse is now acceptable in this area of law. The victim’s fears don’t have to be examined for reasonableness,” Ms Green said. “Further, there is no requirement for allegations of family violence to be independently verified by police or medical reports, for example, for a court to be satisfied that the violence had occurred. This is a big step forward for victims and will help protect them from further harm in the family environment.”

“Family violence” is now defined as: violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful. A child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence.

As of 7 June 2012, the definition of “abuse” in relation to a child has expanded. It is defined in the Family Law Act as:

  1. an assault, including a sexual assault, of the child, or
  2. person (the first person) involving the child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by the first person or the other person, and where there is unequal power in the relationship between the child and the first person, or
  3. causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm, including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence, or
  4. serious neglect of the child.

As a result of these recent legislative amendments, a new provision, section 60CC(2A), has been inserted in the Family Law Act regarding the creation of parenting orders. The child’s best interests are always the paramount consideration for the courts. The child’s safety is now considered more important than the benefits to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

For more information on these changes, please contact Simone Green at Sydney law firm Streeterlaw by phone on 8197 0105 or email    


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