Amendments To The Family Law Act: What You Need To Know

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The Family Law Act has undergone significant amendments, effective from 6 May 2024. These changes are designed to address the complexities of family dynamics better and ensure that the child’s best interests remain paramount in all parenting proceedings. Here’s a comprehensive look at the key amendments and their implications for individuals and families.

Key Amendments to the Family Law Act

Consideration of the Best Interests of the Child

The court’s process for determining what is in the child’s best interests has undergone substantive updates. The new legislation provides a non-hierarchical list of factors that must be considered. These factors include:

  • What arrangements would promote the safety of the child, and each person who has care of the child.
  • The child’s views.
  • The developmental, psychological, emotional and cultural needs of the child.
  • The capacity of each parent to provide for the child’s needs, including emotional and psychological needs.
  • The benefit to the child of being able to have a relationship with each parent and other significant persons.
  • Any history of family violence or abuse.

Repeal of the Presumption of Equal Shared Parental Responsibility

One of the most significant changes is the removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. Previously, the court operated under the presumption that both parents should share equally in the decision-making responsibilities regarding their children unless otherwise ordered. The amendment adopts the terminology of joint or sole decision-making in relation to major long-term issues.

Requirements for Changing Final Parenting Orders

The common law rule regarding when a final parenting order can be reconsidered by a court has been codified into the Family Law Act.  Where a final parenting order is in place, the court must not reconsider the final parenting order unless the court has considered whether there has been a significant change of circumstances since the final order was made and the court is satisfied it is in the best interests of the child for the final parenting order to be reconsidered.

Role of an Independent Children’s Lawyer

Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICL) are now required to meet with the child and provide the child with an opportunity to express a view unless an exception applies. The ICL’s primary function is to represent the child’s interests in family law proceedings, ensuring that the child’s voice is heard and considered by the court. The amendments will ensure that children’s participation in family law proceedings is improved.

Introduction of Harmful Proceeding Orders

To address the issue of vexatious litigation, the new amendments give the court power to make harmful proceedings orders, either on their own initiative or on application by a party to proceedings. These orders aim to prevent individuals from repeatedly bringing cases to court, which could be harmful to the respondent. The court will have the power to declare a person a vexatious litigant, limiting their ability to initiate further proceedings without leave from the court.

How These Amendments Affect Individuals and Families

Existing Orders Remain Intact

It’s important to note that existing parenting orders will remain unchanged when the new law takes effect on May 6, 2024. Individuals with current orders must continue to adhere to them. The amendments will only apply to all proceedings instituted on or after, and all proceedings underway on 6 May 2024, with exceptions for cases where the final hearing has commenced.

Focus on the Child’s Welfare

The amendments place a stronger emphasis on the best interests of the child, ensuring that their best interests are the paramount consideration. This shift provides the court with more discretion to consider the unique circumstances in each parenting matter.

Enhanced Representation for Children

The requirement for the Independent Children’s Lawyer to meet with the child and allow the child an opportunity to express a view, unless an exception applies will ensure that children have a better opportunity to participate in family law proceedings.


The amendments to the Family Law Act represent a significant shift in how family law matters are approached, with a paramount focus on the child’s best interests.

As these amendments take effect, individuals and families must stay informed and seek legal advice to understand how these changes may impact their specific circumstances. For ongoing updates and detailed guidance, consider speaking with a family lawyer in Cairns today.


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