Family Law – Topical Issues

Law Firms with Male-Only Clients

Family LawFamily Law firms targeting male-only clients are emerging in the UK after growing success in the US. Specialising in representing men’s interests in divorce and custody proceedings, these firms predominantly exist to represent men who feel they have been wronged or unfairly represented in Family Court.

Whilst this may appear to simply be catering to a legal niche, the move has been described by some as a dangerous marketing gimmick, promoting distrust in the legal system. Critics are arguing these male-only firms are playing upon the fears and assumptions of men at a stressful time when they are perhaps at their most vulnerable. Some firms advertise about these appeals being positive for the hip pocket – alluding to widespread unfair division of assets in such proceedings.

However lawyers at these male-only firms argue they’re representing their clients to ensure equal opportunity in the achievement of positive outcomes in their clients’ favour.

Legal Aid Underfunding puts Women at Risk

National Legal Aid (NLA) chair Gabrielle Canny has warned of a crisis in the legal aid sector due to underfunding. Canny revealed the equivalent of only six cents per Australian is allocated to legal aid each day. The Access to Justice Arrangements Report in 2014 by The Productivity Commission recommended a $200 million increase in funding per year, to meet current demands.

Underfunding will mostly impact upon low-income earners and it is believed that half of the Family Law issues requiring legal aid will be for cases of domestic violence. 2015 Australian of the Year barrister Kylie Hillard has spoken of the anxiety and stress faced by those attending the Family Court without access to legal aid. The biggest resulting issue is that some women are then unable to legally fight to protect their children from the perpetrators of domestic violence, and their children may end up in the custody of these perpetrators.

Rob Hulls criticised the federal government in an opinion piece in May for not increasing funding of legal aid and community legal centres. Hulls cited that despite the government’s recognition that domestic violence is a significant issue, the lack of funding means legal assistance out of many victims’ reach.

Revision of Victorian Adoption Laws

The Victorian Government is seeking to review adoption laws to have them better accommodate modern day families.

Family LawKerrie Hancox and George Deka are the biological parents of two children, however Deka is legal guardian of only one as the other child was conceived through his sperm donation. When seeking to rectify this issue on their child’s birth certificate, the couple were informed that Deka would need to apply to legally adopt his daughter, despite being her biological father.

This type of problem and many others highlight the need for a review, which will also investigate the adoption rights of same-sex couples, who under existing legislation can legally foster children, but are not currently allowed the right to adopt.

Given the rights of same-sex couples are being increasingly discussed both in the political and public arena, it is commonly anticipated that changes in family law such as same-sex adoption and marriage equality are on the horizon.