This report sheds light on the impact on court filings of the 2006 reforms that encouraged greater use of non-court based mechanisms for resolving parenting disputes and the 2009 reforms that brought post-separation property division laws and processes for de facto couples into line with those for married couples.
This research report provides an overview of trends in family law court filings over a nine-year period between the 2004–05 and 2012–13 financial years. The data used were obtained from the three courts that primarily deal with family law matters: the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia. The report describes longer term trends in court filings overall, and in specific areas relating to children. It also covers the caseload distribution between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia but does not include data on appeals.
The report provides an update on information previously published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in the ‘Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms’. It extends the analysis covered in that report over a further four years, providing a longer term perspective on court caseloads in the nine-year period from 2004–05. The study also provides insight into the continuing effects of the 2006 family law reforms, which introduced a requirement for parents to attempt to resolve parenting disputes through family dispute resolution prior to lodging a child-related court application, except in certain circumstances, including those involving concerns about family violence and child abuse.
In addition, through examining trends in filings in property matters, this research sheds light on the effects of legislation that removed legal distinctions between formerly married and defacto couples for the purposes of post-separation property division (“the de facto property reforms”).3 It also provides some early insights into the emerging consequences of legislative changes that came into effect in 2012 (“the 2012 reforms”). The 2012 reforms aim to improve the identification of and responses to matters involving family violence, child abuse and child safety concerns across the family law system. They are intended to have a widespread influence on practices in family support services (including family dispute resolutions) and practices in the legal and court sectors. The effects of these reforms, including on patterns in court filings, are currently being examined by Australian Institute of Family Studies in a research program funded by the Attorney-General’s Department.