In cases involving family law matters, there are concerns that a
party to a case may provide the court with false or misleading
evidence – in particular, false allegations of family
violence and abuse, which could subsequently affect the outcome of
Section 117AB was inserted into the Family Law Act 1975
(Cth) ('Family Law Act') to address this particular
concern. The section mandates that a court must make a costs order
against a party who 'knowingly made a false allegation or
statement in the proceedings.'
From 7th June 2012, however, section117AB was removed
from the Family Law Act via the Family Law Legislation
Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act
2011('Family Violence Act').
Why was section 117AB removed?
The amendments brought about by the Family Violence Act were
driven by the need to offer better protection for family members at
risk of violence and abuse.1This necessitated the
removal of section 117AB because previous research indicated that
section 117AB has a discouraging effect on the disclosure of family
violence. Parties may refrain from disclosing family violence or
abuse due to fear of a costs order being made against them should
they fail to substantiate the allegations.2
Secondly,there was no or scarce evidence that section 117AB was
effective in preventing the making of false allegations of family
violence.3In practice, costs orders under s 117AB are
How does the Family Law Act now deal with false
Removing section 117AB does not mean that no consequences are
attached to the making of false allegations in court.Under section
117, the courts have discretionary powers to make costs orders if
the court is of the opinion that there are circumstances to justify
doing so. Section 117 is broad enough to deal with the making of
false statements and it is likely that knowingly making false
allegations of violence justify the making of a costs
For better or for worse?
The fact that the courts can still make a cost order against a
party who has made false allegations begs the question: what has
the removal of section 117AB achieved?
Section 117AB carries with it the connotation that the courts
are suspicious of parties who allege violence in family law
matters.6 Removing section 117AB represents a symbolic
shift in thinking –the law is encouraging all information to
be truthfully presented to the court7to ensure safe
parenting arrangements can be made.
Additional amendments brought about by the Family Violence Act
have further supported this change. The very definition of violence
and abuse in the Family Law Act has been broadened to include
physical and emotional abuse, and the exposure of children to
family violence.8The Family Law Act also sets out
anon-exhaustive list of examples of behaviour that may constitute
family violence for guidance.9
The Family Law Act also imposes obligations on the court to take
prompt action in relation to allegations of child abuse or family
violence (section 67ZBB) and to question each party to
child-related proceedings about the presence or risk of family
violence or abuse (section 69ZQ).10
1Attorney-General's Department, Family
Violence Act – Frequently Asked Questions, 4.
2Parliament of Australia, Bill
Digest, No 126 of 2010-11, 25 May 2011.
4R Chisholm, Family Courts Violence Review,
5Attorney-General's Department, Family
Violence Act – Frequently Asked Questions, 10.
6R Chisholm, Family Courts Violence Review,
8Attorney-General's Department, Family
Violence Act – Frequently Asked Questions, 8,9.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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