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New Custody Laws Addresses Family Violence History

New custody laws will force courts to consider a history of family violence, marking a departure from the long-standing “equal shared responsibility” assumption. 

This is the most substantial change in parenting provisions since 2006 aims to prioritise the best interests of the child above all else.

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Under the new legislation, courts must consider seven factors, simplified from the previous 15, including a child’s safety, their views, relationships with both parents, and their developmental, psychological, emotional, and cultural needs. 

Most importantly, a history of family violence is now an essential component in these considerations.

The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility was first introduced in 2006, ensuring both parents having an equal say in major decisions about their children.

This was often interpreted as requiring children to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. 

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However, the Australian Law Reform Commission found that this law was “frequently misunderstood”.

The government’s aim in changing these laws is to provide clearer guidelines for the approximately three per cent of separating families whose parenting arrangements are determined by a court. 

Family lawyer Jodylee Bartal told The Sydney Morning Herald that this reform brought positive changes for individuals suffering family violence or coercive control. 

“But for other families, the removal of that yardstick may mean there’s no starting point for engaging in negotiations.”

The bill, introduced by  Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, is  expected to pass with crossbench support, and will come into effect six months after being passed.

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