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Pauline Hanson's family law plans well-meaning but unworkable

By Jennifer Hetherington - posted Tuesday, 21 February 2017


One Nation leader Pauline Hanson's blueprint for family law change in Australia is unworkable and ignores reality.

That's my view as a Brisbane family law specialist who believes the One Nation leader's radical plans to overhaul the nation's family law system makes too many general assumptions and does not reflect current family law reality.

One of Senator Hanson's plans to change the family law system would force couples into pre-nuptial agreements outlining how they would deal with their children and assets if a relationship broke down.

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As an Accredited Family Law Specialist I'm aware we have over 100,000 marriages per year in Australia.

That's a lot of pre-nups for the Court to approve on top of existing work. The already-overloaded courts would need to hire an army of staff to administer this or the system would just implode under the workload.

Ms Hanson's plans are well-meaning but impractical and are aimed at a populist audience rather than critical voters who would be wary of generalised policies.

Ms Hanson wants a complete overhaul of the Family Law system. It's true the system is under enormous strain right now but compulsory court- approved premarital agreements on finance and parental issues will just make it worse.

We need to be looking at options to stop people going to Court and getting matters out of Court that are already there. Adding 100,000 extra cases a year to an already under-resourced Court is only going to make things worse. There are likely to be many unintended consequences from the proposal.

I have a suggestion that I believe could reduce the number of cases filed in Court, resolve some of the backlog that currently exists and free up time for Judges to hear the really serious matters, sooner.

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As it stands, there are a number of ways to resolve a family law matter out of Court. Collaborative Law and Mediation assist people to make their own decisions. Arbitration outsources the decision to an arbitrator (a 'private judge'). At the moment parties can agree to attend any of these but they cannot be ordered to do so. In my view this needs to change.

It is time for mediation to be compulsory before filing an application seeking property orders, unless exceptions apply as they do for parenting cases.

Parties cannot commence custody proceedings without attending Family Dispute Resolution (Mediation) but they can go to Court about their finances without so much as giving the other party an offer to settle. This has to stop.

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About the Author

Jennifer Hetherington is an Accredited Family Law Specialist with Brisbane family law firm Hetherington Legal.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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