Family Law Changes for Parents – Same but Different?

fairytale endings or new beginnings

The Family Law Act has undergone recent changes that will impact the way parenting matters are to be approached by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in the coming months.  The key amendments are to remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, to simplify the matters considered in determining the best interests of children, and to further restrict the circumstances in which final parenting Orders can be varied, amongst other changes. 

One of the most discussed changes to the Act is the removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.  This seems significant on its face as the presumption meant that the Court was required to consider making Orders for children to spend equal or substantial and significant time with each parent in cases where the presumption applied.  On one argument, the removal of the presumption may make it more difficult for a parent to secure an equal time arrangement.  On another, the change to the legislation will have little impact as the best interests of the children remain the paramount consideration. 

Whilst the factors to be considered in determining what is in the best interests of a child have been streamlined, the essence remains the same.  Further, the changes made to the Act do not mean that the Courts cannot, or will not, consider making equal time Orders.

It is also worth remembering that the Family Law Act does not differentiate between mothers and fathers in the context of the language used.  The Act refers only to parents and importantly, the best interests of children.  For those parents, whether mothers or fathers, who have had and continue to have significant positive involvement in providing for the needs of their children and who can establish that the benefit of that arrangement continuing beyond separation is in the best interests of their children, are arguably likely to achieve similar if not the same outcomes regardless of the changes to the Family Law Act.

The changes will come into effect from May 2024.  For more information on how the new laws may impact you, contact our Accredited Specialist – Family Law, Amanda Tomlinson, for a consultation.

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