In June 2003, a joint parliamentary Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs was commissioned by the Prime Minister to conduct an inquiry into child custody issues and the child support formula. The committee presented its report on the 29th of December 2003 along with its recommendations for reform of the Family Law Act 1975. The focus of this report will be on an evaluation of the existing law and the recommendations provided by the Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs.
The legislation pertaining to Childrens matters is contained primarily in Part 7 of the Family Law Act 1975. In 1995, the Commonwealth Parliament passed significant amendments to those sections of the Act affecting children. The amending legislation introduced a number of important concepts, these included:
Section 60B the objects of the Parts and Principles underlying them. This legislation provides guidelines for the courts and for parents as to what matters must be considered ie that children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents.
S 65E states however that the child's interests are paramount. S 68F2 sets out the criteria to be taken into account by the court to determine what is in the best interests of the children..
Division 2 of Part 7 of the Family Law Act 1975 defines and elaborates upon the concept of parental responsibility as well as the the principles underlying the objects. Courts orders are not required to confer parental responsibility on parents. The contrary is in fact the correct approach in that it is an express or necessary provision in court orders that joint parental responsibility is affected.
One of the underlying reasons for the legislative amendment of the Family Law Act 1975 was to dispense with the previous terminology of custody and contact,