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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1973

Mr CADMAN(8.09) —I notice on the program before the House that clause 53 is noted as being opposed by me. That is certainly the case. I wish to move that it be deleted from the Family Law Amendment Bill. Clause 53 is the so- called divorce by post provision. My objection to the clause is that it provides for decision by remote control. It is the type of post box situation in which two individuals, if they so determine, need not be present at the time of dissolution. The hearings of proceedings for dissolution instituted by one party may proceed where:

(a) the proceedings are undefended;

(b) there are no children of the marriage who have not attained the age of 18 years;

(c) the applicant has requested the court to determine the proceedings in the absence of the parties; and

(d) the respondent has not requested the court not to determine the proceedings in the absence of the parties . . .

I am intrigued by the use of the double negatives but one can perhaps conclude that this is a very negative clause. The provisions of the clause really indicate that, by agreement, parties need not concern themselves with the proceedings of the court and the magistrate or judge can continue the processes of the dissolution of marriage on his own in chambers, completely unattended. This process is a strange one because it means that the individual seeking the dissolution does not have to appear before the judge or before the other party stating his or her opinion and intention. I know of no proceedings in circumstances such as this-for instance, the annulment of a contract-in which neither party need be present or be represented. It is a strange provision and one that will allow an opinion to develop in the community that by the simple process of going to a solicitor-not advising the persons that one is proceeding against, but advising only the court involved of one's intention-the processes will automatically be gone through and there will be no responsibility and no court proceedings in the true sense. The Marriage Act calls a decision to marry a 'very serious decision'. I quote from section 43 of the Family Law Act:

The Family Court shall, in the exercise of its jurisdiction under this Act or any other Act, and any other court exercising jurisdiction under this Act . . . have regard to-(a) the need to preserve and protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life;

That is the basis of the contract entered into by the two people who will now be able to put something in the letter box and say: 'That is the end of it'. I do not agree with that process. I believe that the parties ought to front and answer for their own activities and their own decisions and, whether or not the children are aged 18 or more, for the responsibility they may continue to have to those young people who may still be dependent, who may still be students, and who can suffer just as much trauma as younger children. Therefore, I oppose this provision.