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Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements and Other Measures) Bill 2015

The Government has today introduced the Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements and Other Measures) Bill 2015.  The proposed amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 include measures designed to: 
  • Address uncertainties in the current financial agreement provisions in the Act, to ensure that prospective, current or former parties to a marriage or de facto relationship can resolve their financial and maintenance matters without involving a court;
  • In particular, the proposed amendments make clear that a court is not to consider the question of whether or not the requisite legal advice has actually been given when determining whether a Financial Agreement is binding.  Parties will be able to rely on the certificate or statement of legal advice without the current uncertainty associated with that issue;
  • Enable state and territory courts making an interim family violence protection order to suspend or vary existing parenting orders until either a time specified by the court, or another court order is made;
  • Strengthen Australia’s laws against international parental child abduction by introducing new offences relating to the wrongful retention of a child overseas;
  • Strengthen the courts’ powers to dismiss unmeritorious applications.
There are also a number of other minor and technical amendments, including clarifying definitions and removing redundant provisions, and amendments clarifying the status of the Family Court.

The Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements and Other Measures) Bill 2015 (the Bill) would enhance the capacity of the family law system to provide effective outcomes for users of the system.

1. In particular, it aims to provide greater clarity and certainty to separating couples attempting to resolve their financial affairs without resorting to a court, enable the courts to offer better protection to victims of family violence, and improve the efficiency and operation of the family law courts.

2. Financial agreements are an important tool that can be used by couples to make decisions on financial and maintenance matters in the event of a relationship breakdown. The Bill is aimed at strengthening the primary public policy objective underlying the financial agreement provisions, which is to allow prospective, current or former parties to a marriage or de facto relationship to take responsibility for resolving their financial and maintenance matters without involving a court. The Bill would do this by removing existing uncertainties around the requirements for entering, interpreting and enforcing financial agreements.

3. It is the Government’s firm view that family violence and child abuse is unacceptable and requires a strong legislative response. In line with this view, the Bill would make a number of amendments to strengthen protections against family violence. The Bill would also strengthen Australia’s response to international parental child abduction, and improves the efficiency and operation of the family law courts to benefit all those who come into contact with the family law system.

4. This Bill would amend the financial agreement regime in the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) to:
  •  remove existing uncertainties around requirements for entering, interpreting and enforcing agreements
  •  make changes to the coverage of spousal maintenance matters in agreements
  •  introduce a statement of principles to outline their binding nature, and
  •  reinforce the binding nature of the agreements to offer certainty to parties.
5. The Bill would also amend the Act to:
  •  strengthen protections from violence in certain procedural matters
  •  strengthen Australia’s response to international parental child abduction
  •  assist the operation of the family law courts, and
  •  make minor and technical amendments, including clarifying definitions and removing redundant provisions.
Attachment
Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements and Other Measures) Bill 2015
Attachment
Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements and Other Measures) Bill 2015 Explanatory Memorandum
Edited

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