Letter to edtior - Family Law Reform

By Reader Contributed

John Flanagan,
Fairness In Child Support

On August 1, 1974, the then Attorney-General, Senator Lionel Murphy rose to give his Second Reading speech regarding the Family Law Bill 1974.

He said that “The main purpose of the Bill is to eliminate as far as possible the high costs, the delays and indignities experienced by so many parties to divorce proceedings under the existing Matrimonial Causes Act.”

He then added that “These provide for more simple procedures, require courts to proceed without undue formality”.

Unfortunately Senator Murphy failed dismally in his endeavours.

Our current family law and child support systems destroy lives and increases suicide rates.

The court system, rather than being a simple procedure, promotes an adversarial system that may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in each case.

At the same time, family members are alienated from other members of the families.

For example, one part of our community that is significantly affected includes those personnel in our defence force.

These personnel return from overseas commitments to find that they have lost their families.

As a result of the subsequent family law and child support issues, suicide rates in our defence forces increase out of proportion to their numbers.

Rather than stopping delays a court case in the Family Court can last as long as two to three years before it is heard.

As a result, children often do not see one parent during this period and this then becomes the status quo after the proceedings have been determined. At the same time, the costs escalate out of control.

The solution is obvious. We need to revert to the principles espoused by Senator Murphy. This includes the setting up of an informal tribunal, without lawyers, to carry out divorce proceedings.