What is the Family Law Act in Australia?

What is it?

The Family Law Act (Cth) 1975 sets out the law in relation to Family Law issues (including divorce, custody, property, etc) in Australia, with the exception of Western Australia. Since 1975, several amendments have been made to the Act. This includes amendments so that de facto relationships, including same sex marriages can be dealt with under these laws. The Act also set up a ‘no fault’ system, meaning that it is not necessary to show ‘fault’ in order to divorce. It is sufficient for a relationship to have irretrievably broken down.

What has changed?

Children’s arrangements have also changed. Once referred to as ‘custody,’ the term for a child’s living arrangements was changed to ‘residence and contact.’ Currently, instead of using the, ‘custody’ or ‘residence,’ the court refers to a child ‘living with’ one parent and ‘spending time with’ the other parent.

When discussions take place in a family law context about children’s living arrangements, the term ‘best interests of the child,’ is often mentioned. This is because, pursuant to the Family Law Act, a judge will determine a child’s living arrangements based on what they deem to be in that child’s best interests. The issue a court will look at is outlined in s60CC of the Act. There are many other sections which interrelate with this section.

Property Settlement and Spousal Maintenance

When looking at the issues of dividing assets, property settlement and spousal maintenance, The Family Law Act is also relevant. S79 sets out when a court may make an order for property settlement and what issues are relevant. S75 refers to spousal maintenance.

Do you need to go to court?

The Family Law Act also makes provision for people to enter into agreement without applying to the court, provided certain requirements are met.

As demonstrated by the fact that the Family Law Act has been relied upon for numerous decades and has been amended from time to time, since it’s commencement more that 45 years ago, it is a complex piece of legislation. Cases exist to further understand how the law has been interpreted. Given the complicated nature of Family Law, we recommend that you seek expert family law advice.

Our family lawyers are experienced in all aspects of family law and are standing by to give you the best advice to suit your circumstances. Book an appointment on (03) 9658 7700.