This act also ensures that nonfinancial contributions to a marriage are considered on the dissolution of the marriage, effectively achieving greater justice for women. However, many criticise this legislation for rendering divorce too easy, with 1/3 marriages ending in divorce A current focus area for law reform has been de facto families. Previously, the law did not allocate them legal recognition, as society perceived these relationships as immoral.
Altering societal ethics led to their statutory recognition under the Property (Relationships) Act 1984 (NSW), granting them many of the same rights as married couples. However, whilst one party could claim maintenance upon the breakdown of a DFR, the law does not take into account future needs of the parties upon separation. The law also attempted to regulate the division of property however, less weight was given to non?financial contributions, shown in Turnbull v McGregor where the homemaker’s contribution to the property in a 32 yr relationship was valued at just 16%.
This ineffectiveness was addressed with the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Act 2008 (Cth), through enabling them to resolve their financial and parenting issues in the Family Law Court, using nationally consistent processes An important change in social attitudes has been the increasing acceptance of homosexual relationships. Statute law failed to reflect this shift in societal values, as it was changes to common law that fostered the legal recognition of same?sex couples.
Various significant cases created law reform momentum, such as Hope and Brown v NIB Health Funds (1995), in which a same?sex couple successfully argued that their health fund had discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation, through denying them a ‘family’ status. Eventually the Property (Relationships) Amendment Act 1999 (NSW) altered the definition of a de facto relationship to non?gender specific, effectively incorporating homosexual couples. This provides protection in property division, maintenance and inheritance © (2012) All Rights Reserved 1 of 3 For more info, go to www. scintheholidays. com. au ??? Ongoing reform in the new millennium has attempted to eradicate all areas of discrimination, the most significant being the Miscellaneous acts Amendment (Same Sex Relationships) Bill 2008. It enabled equal parenting rights for the female partners of mothers and protected the rights of both parents upon separation. However, the modern definition of marriage, “the voluntary union for life of one man and woman to the exclusion of all others”, established in Hyde v Hyde and Woodmansee (1866), remains exclusive of homosexual marriages.
Significantly, it is now the only point of legislative inequality between same?sex couples and other couples. For same sex couples, legal recognition of their marriage signifies the provision of adequate legal protection. Until this barrier has been overcome, justice for same?sex family members will remain unachieved. Justice for children has recently been an area of legislative focus, with an emphasis on parental responsibility. The care and protection of children has been a primary focus of law reform. Children (Equality of Status) Act 1976 (NSW) states that all children, nuptial or ex? nuptial, are treated equally under the law.
Parents are prohibited from using physical force on the head or neck of the child as punishment by the Crimes Amendment (Child Protection? Physical Mistreatment) Act 2002 (NSW), which effectively saw a father in Woy Woy sentenced to a one?year good behaviour bond after excessively disciplining his child. Perhaps the most significant reform is the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 (Cth). This law emphasises the changing nature of parental responsibility, as it enshrined the equal shared responsibility of both parents to care and protect the child as a primary objective.
The government is clearly trying to move from the previous situation where over 95% of children are not in shared care Such law reforms justly place emphasis on the ‘best interests of the child’, effectively catering for their vulnerability, as well as reflecting society’s perception of parenting as a moral obligation. However, criticism has been directed at the preference for ‘shared parenting’ as it could more easily expose children to domestic violence. Furthermore, protests by Michael Fox in 2011 about the family law system’s bias against fathers, reflects the failure of the law to achieve justice for fathers.
Holding up banners saying “Kids first”, Fox claimed that DOCS was a failed department. These areas of ineffectiveness highlight how the law’s emphasis on shared parenting is often more idealistic than it is effective. In the past, domestic violence (DV) has been an area where the law has failed to protect family members. Correlating with growing societal concerns, the law recognised DV as a crime under the Crimes (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act 1982 (NSW). Furthermore, the laws just recognition of the effects of DV is noted in the use of ‘battered women’s syndrome’ as a defence for murder.
The recent introduction of the Domestic Violence Intervention Court Model improves the response of the criminal justice system to victims of DV, requiring police to immediately begin investigating and apply for an ADVO on hearing a DV report. This has been effective, with BOSCAR evaluating “victims reported that they were very satisfied with the police response… they felt safe”. Ineffectively however, many are still victim to DV. R v. Aytugral (2009) revealed the law’s inability to protect Ms Bayrak from being murdered by her ex?partner.
Furthermore, recent media reports state that DV has increased 3. 3% in Sydney. The use of birth technologies represents a contemporary issue concerning family law. The Artificial conception Act 1984 (NSW) states that the biological mother and her partner are the legal parents, protecting families that choose to undergo these procedures. However, the law has been widely condemned for being too slow in addressing many of the ethical issues in this area, such as the question of ownership of frozen embryos in case of both parent’s deaths. A major concern is the lack of legislation regarding
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