New Family Court Judge Appointed

4th June 2015

By Lisa Wagner

On 28 May 2015 the Federal Government announced the appointment of former Commonwealth Attorney-General Mr Robert McClelland as a Judge of the Family Court of Australia.  Mr McClelland will commence his appointment on 16 June 2015 and will be based in the Sydney Registry of the Family Court.  Following swearing in, he will be referred to as ‘His Honour McClelland, J.’

Prior to this appointment, Mr McClelland had developed an impressive profile in the community.  In 1996 he was elected as the Federal Member for Barton and following this position, undertook service as Australia’s Attorney-General.  Prior to his political career Mr McClelland practiced as a solicitor and was called to the Bar in 2011.  He is currently a partner at Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we welcome Mr McClelland’s appointment to the Family Court Bench in the Sydney registry.  During his term as Commonwealth Attorney-General during the period 2007 to 2011, Mr McClelland was committed to improving the family law system and was responsible for the introduction of several important changes to the Family Law Act 1975, which aimed at improving support to separating families and advancing the family law system in its response to issues surrounding family violence and child abuse.  In 2011 Attorney-General McClelland introduced legislation that redefined domestic violence, in turn placing greater weight on child safety.

Today, the definition of ‘family violence’ at s4AB of the Family Law Act 1975 is as follows:

For the purposes of this Act, family violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family or causes the family member to be fearful.

During 2011, the amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 included a paring back of the evidentiary burden of proving a child’s risk of violence.  At that time, Mr McClelland noted that the Family Law Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 would create a safer and fairer family law system and put the safety of children first.  “It will help people within the system to understand and recognise family violence and child abuse, and encourage them to act”, he said.  Mr McClelland supported and promoted the child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, but highlighted that the child’s best interest was paramount.  In this regard, he was of the view that shared care from both parents was supported, but only where it was safe for the child.

During his tenure as Attorney-General, Mr McClelland also highlighted the need for further alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in the family law context and was resilient in his commitment to increasing options available for resolving disputes out of the courts, especially for parenting and property matters.  Mr McClelland spoke of the need to attend family dispute resolution, not just in parenting matters, but also in property and spousal maintenance matters.  In this way, Mr McClelland continued to focus on how best to use court resources in applying suitable resolutions to family law matters.

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, or you are in dispute with your partner over property or parenting issues, then Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers can help you.  Call 02 9437 0010 or email enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to arrange a confidential discussion.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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