Family law reform kills conjugal rights

“REPUGNANT’’ conjugal rights allowing husbands to demand sex from their wives will be killed off in Australia, in a new shake-up of family law.

The Family Law Act gives judges the power to “relieve’’ a husband or wife from “any obligation to perform marital services or render conjugal rights’’.

But Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday introduced a bill to abolish “misleading and unnecessary wording that suggests that conjugal rights and an obligation to perform marital services still exist in Australian law’’.

“These concepts do not reflect current law, and are repugnant to modern principles of autonomy and equality within relationships,’’ the bill’s explanatory memorandum states.

The legislative changes also give Family Court judges new powers to throw out “frivolous or vexatious’’ complaints made by warring partners. The aim is to “better protect victims of family violence from perpetrators who attempt to use the family law system as a tool of continued victimisation’’.

In addition, separated parents will no longer have to consult each other about what a child eats or wears, under reforms that confine consultation to “major long-term issues’’.

State-based magistrates and children’s courts that deal with family violence or child protection matters will be given new powers to rule on parenting and property disputes at the same time, without referring the case to the Family Court.

And for the first time, police will be able to charge offenders who breach a Family Court personal protection order, so victims no longer need to take civil action. “This sends a strong message to the Australian community (that) family violence is not a private matter, it is criminal behaviour,’’ Mr Brandis said.

The original article was featured in The Daily Telegraph on 7 December 2017


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