Family Law Reform | Full Stop Australia

Family Law Reform

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It’s time for family law reform.

It’s time for Safety. Justice. Now.

"She wets her bed the night before she has to go back to her father. She clings on to me and cries for me to protect her, but I can’t. The court doesn’t see the hell we’re living in.”

“I was made to co-parent with my rapist…”

What’s the problem?

According to the latest Federal Court and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) statistics, 80% of court matters involve allegations of family violence and 70% involve allegations of child abuse. And yet according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, just 3% of family law matters, involving allegations of family violence and abuse, result in the child being protected from contact with the abusive parent.

Day-in, day-out adult and child victim-survivors of family violence and abuse are being put at risk of experiencing immediate and ongoing harm, due to a family law system which prioritises a meaningful relationship with both parents, over the safety of children and their primary caregivers.

The most problematic provision of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) is the presumption of equal parental responsibility, and its corresponding requirement to consider parents having equal or substantial and significant time with the child(ren).

Despite the requirement to make decisions in the best interests of children and the availability of a family violence and abuse exemption, the presumption gives power to perpetrators of violence and abuse, establishing a status quo or ‘norm’ of shared decision making, which makes it difficult for victim-survivors to achieve immediate and ongoing safety for themselves and their children.

When shared parenting exists in the context of family violence and abuse, it provides multiple opportunities for the perpetrator to engage in ongoing coercive control under the guise of following court orders.

In a system with such high levels of family violence and abuse, the existence and application of the presumption is extremely dangerous, especially when adult victim-survivors and their children are before the courts at the point of separation - the very time they are most in danger of escalating or fatal violence.

What’s the solution?

The Australian government has released an exposure draft bill to amend the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and the details about the proposed changes can be obtained here: Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 - Attorney-General's Department - Citizen Space (

It is proposed that the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility in family law be removed along with its mandatory requirement to consider equal or substantial and significant time with children.

What’s the barrier to reform?

This draft bill, and its primary objective of removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, is not supported by everyone. Some advocates argue that the presumption is important for protecting both parents’ rights to have access to their children, even in cases where allegations of violence and abuse have been substantiated.

What is Full Stop Australia’s position?

Full Stop Australia strongly supports the government’s historic and landmark reform to remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, but also seeks other changes to improve safe outcomes for children and victim-survivors, including:

  • That family law system legislation, service and court responses must be transformed to become ‘family violence informed’ where safety is prioritised.
  • That specialised best interests’ principles be introduced to guide court decision making to specifically address risk of family violence and abuse.
  • That an expanded definition of coercive control be introduced to the legislation to recognise patterns of abuse and power differentials, and to improve identification and response to family violence and abuse.
  • That earlier responses to litigation and system’s abuse be developed.
  • That an inquisitorial approach to family law litigation be adopted and trauma informed case management processes be implemented.
  • That victim-survivors be assisted to achieve economic justice post separation through better recognition of the impacts of family violence in the division of property.

More ideas for change are contained in the Full Stop Australia Summary Position Paper on Family Law available below. Full Stop looks forward to working with government to address the other reforms that are necessary to achieve safe outcomes for victim-survivors and their children in Australia.

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