What Does the 2021 Federal Budget Mean for Family Law?
The Government has announced that they will be investing $400 million towards the family law system with a focus on assisting women and children access justice and to improve court efficiency.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, family law has seen a spike in cases, particularly women’s legal centres and support services who have been swamped providing legal advice and general support to the vulnerable experiencing family violence. To ensure those services can run efficiently with adequate resources, $129 million will be directed to women’s legal centres and a further $85 million directed to Family Advocacy and Support Services.
The pandemic has also effected contact centres which facilitate supervised visits and changeovers for families and children. These contact services were forced to close during restrictions and the waiting lists for visits now span several months. $101.4 million will be directed to these centres with the creation of an additional 20 centres to keep up the demand.
The Government is injecting $29 million to better systems and communication between the family law courts, Police and state child protection departments to ensure better information sharing for at-risk families.
A $100 million package will be directed to the new Federal Circuit and Family Court (following the announcement to combine these two Courts into one to increase efficiency). The package will be rolled out over a four year period to improve the handling of cases. The package also includes further funds for the appointment of more Judges, and funding to support Registrars who will be used more frequently to free up the Judges time with a view that they hear cases more quickly.
An extra $10.7 million will be directed to help separated couples divide small property pools quickly and affordably, so that their nominal assets are not consumed by legal fees.
The Government is also injecting:
$4.7 million for state law reform to strengthen the safety of women from coercive control, sexual assault and harassment.
$16.8 million to strengthen the support for child sexual abuse survivors.
$24.1 million for increased commonwealth prosecutions defending child sexual abuse survivors.
$60 million for improved legal services for those suffering with mental health issues.