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From its commencement, the Family Law Act 1975 has sought to promote the best interests of children. The Act focuses on the rights of children and the responsibilities that each parent has towards their children, rather than on parental rights, with the aim of ensuring children can enjoy a meaningful relationship with each of their parents, and are protected from harm.  The family law system helps people resolve the legal aspects of family relationship issues, including family relationship breakdown, and encourages people to agree on arrangements without going to court.

However, despite its focus on children’s interests, experts and scholar have argued that the family law system has not always been good at finding the safest and most effective ways of hearing children’s voices (see for example, Kaspiew et. al. 2014).  In 2017, the Australian Government announced its intention to direct the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to “conduct the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976, with a view to making necessary reforms to ensure the family law system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse” (ALRC, 2017).  One of the terms of reference is for the ALRC to consider the paramount importance of protecting the needs of the children of separating families.

With a view to understanding the contemporary opinions of visitors to our website, the focus of Relationships Australia’s September 2018 online survey was on capturing the voices of children in family disputes.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites