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Should Family Law be compulsory in High School?

The concept of teaching Family Law to high school students may seem like a far-fetched educational idea. However, is it possible that a basic knowledge of how the law operates in this area may be an important skill to be possessed by students in the future?

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that of 118,962 marriages registered in 2013, there were 47,638 divorces granted. These figures are quite alarming. What these statistics don’t show is the psychological and financial impacts these divorces have had on the on the men, women and children involved. Whether you agree or disagree with the concept of compulsory family law education in high school, it is clear, something needs to be done about the high divorce rates in Australia.  Could it be that educating our high school students today may result in changes to the divorce rate in Australia in the future?

1. Education promotes change

Education is the first step in changing the way people see and act towards an issue.  In the case of divorce and separation it may be that, by educating students about these matters today, that less families will experience these problems in the future. The Family Law Act highlights the importance of mediation in the dispute resolution process.  The aim of mediation is to help parties resolve disputes outside of the court thereby reducing the emotional and financial strain on the parties. Certainly this would be the aim of most individuals involved in a separation but particularly those who are educated about the alternative which, is a long and costly court proceeding.

2. Ignorance is not bliss

A lack of education may lead to people to enter into marriages that are not ideal, as they may not see separation, property settlement and divorce as the emotionally draining, time consuming and financially straining process that it can be. Simply having an understanding of the process may make individuals consider the importance of marriage more carefully. Therefore, by knowing about family law, individuals would be better equipped to prevent family legal issues arising in the first instance and be better equipped to deal with them if they do arise.

Most people would not be aware that the application filing fee for a divorce in Australia is currently $1,200 and a standard divorce takes several months to finalise. The application process is complex and very procedural and even a small error on the application can cause considerable delay in processing a divorce. The other important factor that many people are unaware of is that if the parties have children under the age of 18 they must attend court when the application is heard and provide sufficient information about arrangements that are in place for the ongoing care of any children of the relationship. These are some relatively basic concepts which could easily be taught to high school students.

3. With knowledge comes confidence

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It is true that people who are more educated about divorce and separation will generally be more confident in expressing why they do not want to rush into a marriage. They are also going to be better equipped to deal with a family dispute or a separation if it should occur. With Australia’s high divorce rates, now is a good time to provide students with some family law knowledge; which will arm them with the tools to better understand the importance of the family law system.

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