19 July 2011

The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia today released the revised version of the Family Violence Best Practice Principles, which forms part of the courts’ strategy to manage allegations of family violence in family law disputes that come before the courts.

In Sydney today, Attorney-General Robert McClelland officially launched the revised Family Violence Best Practice Principles.

“The Government has proposed important reforms to the family law system and it’s pleasing to see the courts also working to make it easier for judicial officers in their role of managing family law disputes,” Mr McClelland said.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant said that the principles had been developed to provide decision makers with practical guidance when dealing with matters where family violence, or the risk of it, had been alleged.

“Protecting families and particularly children who are engaged with the family law system from the effects of family violence is a priority for the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court.

“The revised Family Violence Best Practice Principles assists in this critically important task by acting as a checklist of matters that judges, federal magistrates, court staff, legal professionals and litigants may wish to consider at each stage of the litigation process,” Chief Justice Bryant said.

A significant change in the revised version of the principles has been the inclusion of the processes of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia which deals with the majority of all family law matters before the courts.

Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe AO CVO noted that the development of the range of principles was a joint exercise by both the Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court of Australia. “This uniform approach is clearly a benefit to family law litigants generally,” Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe said.

“Further, the Federal Magistrates Court is an extremely busy court and having a clear set of principles will assist federal magistrates when deciding the next step in a case or framing orders.”

The Chief Justice agreed and said “it is important that the public know that all judicial officers take family violence very seriously and that the courts adopt a common approach to issues of violence."

Further information about the best practice principles is provided below and a full copy of the Family Violence Best Practice Principles is available from the Family Law Courts website at www.familylawcourts.gov.au.

Best Practice Principles for Use in Parenting Disputes when Family Violence or Abuse is alleged

The Best Practice Principles are designed to provide practical guidance to courts, legal practitioners, service providers and litigants in cases where issues of family violence or child abuse arise. After significant changes were made to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) in 2006, the Family Court introduced a suite of Best Practice Principles to assist decision makers. It was later recognised that the Best Practice Principles could be a valuable tool for all individuals and agencies involved in these cases. The notion that the Best Practice Principles would be valuable to a wider audience was informed by a series of reports in which recommendations were made about how courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act and others should address issues of family violence and abuse. Thus, the Chief Justice of the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate requested the courts’ Family Violence Committee to revise and update the Best Practice Principles.

Statement of principle

The Best Practice Principles have been developed by the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. They contribute to furthering the courts’ commitment to protecting children and any person who has a parenting order from harm resulting from family violence and abuse. They also seek to reinforce the guiding principles contained in the Family Violence Strategy 2004–2005.

The Best Practice Principles recognise:

  • the harmful effects of family violence and abuse on victims
  • the place accorded to the issue of family violence in the FLA, and
  • the principles guiding the Magellan case management system for the disposition of cases involving allegations of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse of children.

The Best Practice Principles are applicable in all cases involving family violence or child abuse or the risk of family violence or child abuse in proceedings before courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act. They provide useful background information for decision makers, legal practitioners and individuals involved in these cases.

Media contact: Denise Healy, Media & Public Affairs Manager
telephone: 0409743695 email: denise.healy@familycourt.gov.au