Remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility from the Family Law Act

Graham Perrett, Federal Labor MP has introduced a private members bill in Canberra aimed at removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility from the Family Law Act.

safe steps, alongside other specialist women’s, family violence and legal services strongly supports the bill to promote safer outcomes for women and children navigating the family law system.

safe steps has a long and proud history of advocating for policy reform in regard to family law

Inquiry after Inquiry has recommended that the Family Law Act should be amended to urgently remove or replace the presumption of ‘equal shared parental responsibility’.[1] safe steps has strongly supported this recommendation in several submissions.

About 3% of separated parents use family law courts to make parenting arrangements. These are predominantly families affected by family violence, child safety concerns and other complex issues. Even in this context, orders for a child to have no contact with one of their parents are extremely rare.[2]

The safety of victims-survivors of family violence must be front of mind when considering reform to the Australian Family Law System. The rights of children, but also gender equality and the rights of women, should be enshrined in objectives and principles.[3]

Instead of misleading rhetoric about the Family Court, what is needed is informed, compassionate decision makers who understand the many complex ways in which family violence presents, including the ways that perpetrators (the majority of whom are men), use the legal system to inflict further harm on (most often) women and children.

One victim-survivor consulted by safe steps expressed her hope that an improved decision-making framework for parenting arrangements would “look for and enable the child-focussed parent” rather than protecting perpetrators.[4]

Sign the petition

Women’s Legal Service Queensland has created a petition calling on the Prime Minister, Australian Attorney-General and Minister for Women to prioritise children’s safety in family law by removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility from the Family Law Act.

You can sign the petition here: https://womenslegalservice.good.do/putkidssafetyfirstinfamilylaw/


[1] Australian Law Reform Commission (March 2019) Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System (PDF) page 172. The Family Violence Law Reform Report of the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Parliamentary Committee (2017), the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (2019).

[2] AIFS October 2019 Research Summary Parenting arrangements after separation (PDF)

[3] DVVic (2018) Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Family Law System Discussion Paper (PDF).

[4] safe steps submission to the Australia Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Family Law System Discussion Paper (PDF), November 2018, page 8.