Family Law – avoiding frozen chooks

Family Law – avoiding frozen chooks

Nearly 20 years ago Professor Reg Graycar wrote an important piece titled ‘Law Reform by Frozen Chook: Family Law Reform for the New Millenium?’ She observed that in making changes to family law, ‘anecdotes [about ex-wives chucking frozen chooks] told by those disgruntled with ‘the system’ have tended to have far more influence than the empirical evidence gathered by researchers.’

The current wide-ranging Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry into family law provides an important opportunity to stand back and look at the system afresh, and to redesign it for future generations. What is working well? What do we need to adjust? What needs a complete overhaul?

Professionals – and those who have been ‘users’ of the system – have a chance to reflect, discuss, tell stories and contribute to the data that the ALRC will sift through to make recommendations about what should and shouldn’t be changed in the family law system. It’s important to hear what is working and what is not.

Certainly it is a very different landscape to the one existing when Reg Graycar wrote her paper.

We have a substantial body of empirical evidence about the operation of the Australian family law system, and this provides a solid foundation for developing evidence-based policy and law reform, as well as a platform for evaluating those stories.

We have made huge strides in relation to access, professional collaborations, understanding of family violence, providing a nationwide system of dispute resolution and support services – as well as important legislative changes that prioritise violence and recognise same sex marriage.

But there are still gaps, inequities and injustices. There is still much work to be done.

The ALRC Issues Paper was released this week. It is important for family law professionals and their clients to contribute to the conversation about the kind of family law system we would like to see. We need a broad range of views and experiences – as well as empirical evidence – to avoid reliance on frozen chooks.





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