ANDREW TILLETT CANBERRA,
The West Australian March 23, 2011, 5:58 am
Divorced parents' groups say proposed family law changes will swamp the courts with vexatious claims of family violence made by embittered ex-partners in custody disputes.
Brian Fisher, a spokesman for the Family Law Reform Association, said under the proposed changes, the definition of family violence would be left open-ended and become too subjective, making it easier for judges to restrict or terminate parental contact.
As an example, he said a woman could make an allegation that her estranged husband "raised his voice and I was scared", leaving it virtually impossible for the accused to challenge that claim.
The changes will also water down sanctions against partners who made false statements about their exes, which Mr Fisher said would only encourage further damaging and untrue claims to be made during ugly court battles.
So-called friendly parent provisions which require the Family Court to consider whether parents have fulfilled their obligation to encourage a healthy relationship between their child and the other parent will be removed.
Mr Fisher predicted the Family Court would be bogged down examining these allegations of family violence and be diverted from concentrating on more serious cases of actual violence and abuse.
He said there was no good reason for changes in the wake of the 2006 family law reforms encouraging shared parenting.
Other groups objecting to the changes include the Lone Fathers Association, Parents without Partners, the Non-Custodial Parents Party, Fairness in Child Support and the Shared Parenting Council.
The draft changes were released late last year for public consultation. The Government says the changes are designed to provide better protection for families and children at risk of violence.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said last month more than 400 submissions had been received, with 73 per cent in favour of the changes. He said the level of interest showed there was a clear need to improve parts of family law.