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  • Significant changes to the Family Law Act 1975 will soon come into effect.
  • The changes will help simplify a convoluted and complex family law system.
  • As the provisions are new and untested, until case law is developed their effectiveness at safeguarding children and victim-survivors of family violence is yet to be determined.
  • It is essential that these changes are underpinned by an evidence-based community education campaign, as well as targeted domestic and family violence training for all professionals working within the family law system.

The Family Law Amendment Act 2023 (‘Act’) received Royal Assent on 6 November 2023. Most of the changes will apply from 6 May 2024. The Act introduces some of the most significant changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (‘Family Law Act’) since the 2006 reforms.


Changes to the Family Law Act were introduced primarily in response to recommendations made in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Family Law for the Future: An Inquiry into the Family law System (ALRC Report 135, 2019) (‘ALRC Report’). The ALRC Report highlighted several problems with the family law system including: insufficient protection for people experiencing or at risk of family violence, significant court delays, and the legislation in this area was complicated and confusing.

This article will consider these changes from the perspective of victim-survivors of family violence and the impact these changes are likely to have on them and their family law proceedings.

It has been claimed that the ‘legislation will see more family law matters resolved quickly, safely and inexpensively without compromising the safety of family members’ (Explanatory Memorandum Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 at [1]). Although there have been some positive steps forward, when analysing these changes through the lens of a specialist sexual, domestic and family violence legal service, we are concerned the changes will not be as effective as anticipated and, in some circumstances, may actually compromise safety. Close scrutiny of the amended ‘best interests’ test in particular, will be required to ensure the Act achieves its intended purpose.

Summary of key changes

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