Celebrating 40 years of family law reforms

26-November-2016 blog,Family Law By Mel Collins

Last month, family lawyers from around the country, including Streeterlaw’s Simone Green and Rosemary Hanna, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Family Law Act at the Biennial National Family Law Conference in Melbourne.

The Family Law Act 1975 was a major social reform allowing a no-fault and accessible system of obtaining a divorce. From this time on, families were no longer put through the indignity of having evidence presented in court to prove one of the 14 grounds for divorce, which included adultery, habitual drunkenness and being of ‘unsound mind’.

Prior to the establishment of the Family Court of Australia in 1976, divorce cases were heard in the Supreme Court of each state. This meant that the media were permitted to publish the couple’s names, which often had a devastating impact on the children of the marriage.

Ms Green said the four-day conference, which featured more than 32 sessions on current issues in Family Law, highlighted how far Australia has come in the past 40 years to ensure divorce is no longer the blame game that damaged so many families.

“Acclaimed journalist and businesswoman Ita Buttrose spoke of her own personal experience of divorce,” Ms Green said. “Her moving story of her parents’ traumatic divorce in the 1960s and her own no-fuss divorce under the Family Law Act provided a stark contrast of then and now.

“Another highlight was listening to the firsthand accounts from the Honourable Elizabeth Evatt, who was the Chief Justice of the Family Court through the ground-breaking reformist years of the 1970s and 1980s. She spoke of the impact the Family Court bombings had on the judiciary and the way the Court is now structured.

“While the Family Law system is not perfect by any means, the conference provided a valuable insight into how the law has adapted to the changing nature of the family over the past 40 years.”

The Family Law Act has undergone many further reforms since its commencement in 1976 and continues to change as the needs of society change with it.

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