Calls to make family law safer for women and children experiencing domestic violence by removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility have been backed by Women’s Legal Service Queensland and the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation.
Prompted by the horrific murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children, a Private Member’s Bill set to be introduced into Federal Parliament on Monday 15 June by Mr Graham Perrett MP, is calling for the removal of the presumption of (ESPR).
Ms Laura Bos, Chair of Small Steps 4 Hannah, a foundation established to honour the memory of Hannah Clarke and her children said, “The Family Law system can make a difficult and emotionally charged situation worse. Children are in the thick of it. Child custody issues are very hard at the best of times, and we saw with Hannah (Clarke) the way custody of the children had become a competitive game to Rowan.”
“We are calling on everyone across the parliament to prioritise kids safety and change this dangerous law. What we have seen with Hannah Clarke and her babies is that ‘gaming’ the custody system is one nobody wins and in the worst possible way.”
“Let’s do what is best for the kids. They should be at the centre of a circle and not a knot in a game of tug of war.”
Women’s Legal Service Queensland has created a petition calling on the Prime Minister, Australian Attorney-General and Minister for Women to prioritise children’s safety in family law by removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility from the Family Law Act.
Angela Lynch, CEO of Women’s Legal Service Queensland said kids safety is an issue above politics and the entire parliament should prioritise the bill, “The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility in family law shifts the focus of decision-makers away from child safety and the best interests of children,”
“In practice, the current system places victims of violence on the backfoot in court, mediation and in their negotiations with the violent perpetrator. The legislation is complicated, easily misunderstood and its links to equal time incentivise violent perpetrators to pursue their ‘rights’ in the court and other processes putting kids at risk.”
“It is also very complex, making trials and legal processes longer and more expensive. Survivors of domestic and family violence are sick and tired of review after review. We need action. We need to remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility”.
The 2017 Family Violence Law Reform Report of the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Parliamentary Committee recommended the removal of the presumption of ESPR, and the 2019 Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) review into the family court recommended the presumption be replaced and not linked to equal time.
The 2017 Parliamentary review found the presumption of ESPR and orders for equal time were being inappropriately applied in cases involving family violence. Considering the ALRC report found that up to 85% of family court matters involve domestic and family violence, the continued existence of ESPR is placing thousands of children at risk of further abuse.
Sign the petition here: https://womenslegalservice.good.do/putkidssafetyfirstinfamilylaw/