Effectiveness in Achieving the Law

In relation to family members, discuss the effectiveness of the law in achieving justice.

The effectiveness of the law in achieving justice for families varies under the functions and composition of families and couples in society. Equally, the law must reflect these changes in values. The Family Law Act (1975) defines the ideal family as ‘the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children’. The law traditionally specifically recognised units such as the nuclear and extended families, however the changing composition of society has called for the legal system to respond appropriately to new alternative family arrangements.   Despite some steps towards equality for all family units, the law has not made adequate progress in catering to all of these existing groups; there is still much room for reform in this area.

Equality implied that the law must apply equally and fairly to everyone without exception – the rule of law suggests no one is above the law, however inequalities exist particularly in the area of homosexual couples. In achieving justice, same sex couples were granted almost equal rights to de facto couples under the Property (Relationships) Amendment Act 1999 (NSW), replacing the De Facto Relationships Act. These are, however, NSW statutes and so there are great inconsistencies throughout Australia in these areas. The common law does attempt to address these issues within the legal system, for example Hope & Brown v NIB, where a homosexual couple sued to qualify as a family unit for health insurance.

Alternative family arrangements are most prevalent in today’s society - one area in which Australian domestic law is in the institution of marriage. The Marriage Act (1961) clearly stipulates the requirements of a valid marriage, defining it as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life”, (Hyde v Hyde &...