Family dispute resolution and domestic violence

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See more resources on Family dispute resolution and domestic violence in the AIFS library catalogue

Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System

Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australia. Parliament. Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, January 2020.
This is the submission from the Australian Institute of Family Studies to the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System. The Committee was established in 2019 to investigate a range of issues associated with the appropriateness, effectiveness and impacts of the family law system, following on from the 2018 review. This submission highlights findings from the Institute's work that relate to the Committee's terms of reference, including: interaction and information-sharing between systems and jurisdictions, court powers in relation to the provision of evidence, court reform: capacity to deal with complex issues, legal costs in property matters, family law support services and family dispute resolution (FDR), family law impacts on children and families, grandparent carers, improving performance of family law system professionals, family law and child support systems: interactions, and pre-nuptial agreements. Together, the work of the Institute demonstrates the need for a system that: is trauma-informed and child-inclusive, provides effective client support and dispute resolution services, and is delivered by family law professionals with the skills to secure the safety and best interests of children and their families.

Universal risk screening in relationships counselling to enhance client engagement and promote safety and wellbeing.

Lee J and McIntosh J
Peer-reviewed papers from the FRSA 2019 National Conference : new horizons - building the future, paving the way. Fyshwick, ACT : Family & Relationship Services Australia, 2019: 52-59
This paper describes a new tool used to screen clients in relationship counselling or Family Dispute Resolution services, to help identify risk of harm. Relationships Australia (South Australia) is using Family DOORS, adapted from the Family Law DOORS framework developed for legal practitioners. The paper highlights the importance of universal risk screening in post-separation settings and describes how the tool works in practice, then discusses findings from the first 675 clients screened using Family DOORS. The assessment identified high levels of past abuse and current risks of violence, as well as other concerns such as risky alcohol or drug use, parenting stress, child protection notifications about their children, and current suicidal thoughts. The findings highlight that universal screening should be seen as essential in counselling services just as it is in post-separation FDR services.

The intersection of family violence and family dispute resolution : implications for evidence gathering and mediation confidentiality.

Harman J
Australian Journal of Family Law v. 33 no. 1 Jun 2019: 1-28
This article investigates whether parents in parenting cases involving family violence are attending family dispute resolution services, providing insights into the sources from which family violence evidence can be gathered and whether concerns over confidentiality are warranted. It analyses 414 cases heard before a Federal Circuit Court judge in New South Wales over 3 months, comparing whether the parties had attended family dispute resolution or obtained an exception, whether a notice of risk regarding an allegation of family violence had been filed, and whether a family violence order had been made. The article discusses attendance rates, candour in disclosure, engagement with other service, such as the police, health services or counselling, and confidentiality. The data indicate that parties with family violence allegations rarely attend family dispute resolution, and that most of those who do have already disclosed the allegations to another service.

Te korowai ture a-whanau: the final report of the independent panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms.

Noonan R, King L and Dellabarca C
Wellington, N.Z. : Ministry of Justice, 2019.
A suite of reforms was implemented in the family justice in New Zealand in 2014 that aimed to shift the emphasis away from in-court to out-of-court processes. This report presents the findings and recommendations of an independent panel established to evaluate these reforms, focusing in particular on changes to services that help with care of child disputes, including the Family Court, the Family Dispute Resolution service, Parenting Through Separation (PTS) parenting courses and counselling. The panel investigated: the effectiveness of out of court services; the effectiveness of Family Court processes, particularly given the significant increase in the number of urgent/without notice applications; the roles of the professionals, including children's lawyers, family dispute resolution providers and psychologists; and whether the system as a whole is producing outcomes that are upholding the welfare and best interests of children. The panel concludes that elements of the 2014 reforms must be changed to strengthen and integrate the system, and proposes the development of a joined-up family justice service, to be called Te Korowai Ture a-Whanau. Background research, including qualitative interviews with parents and summaries of consultations, have also been published.

The family law system : the data.

Australian Law Reform Commission
Family law for the future - an inquiry into the family law system. Brisbane, Qld. : Australian Law Reform Commission, 2019: 79-110
This chapter presents a statistical overview of the work of the family court system. It collates various data sources on the number and characteristics of families that enter the family law system and how their cases are resolved. Data is provided on: case load, family dispute resolution, matters filed in the courts, matters that resolve at trial, attrition, participants in the family law system, decision makers, provision of legal services, court services, family law support services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, court delay, family violence and abuse, notices of risk, and Magellan matters. Most families that separate resolve their disputes without recourse to the family law system: up to 70% of separating families work out their own parenting arrangements and up to 40% settle the division of their property through discussion. Furthermore, the vast majority of matters that enter the family law system will settle before judgment.

Family law for the future - an inquiry into the family law system: summary report

Australian Law Reform Commission
Brisbane, Qld. : Australian Law Reform Commission, 2019.
This paper summarises the findings and recommendations of the landmark review of the family law system in Australia. The review was commissioned in 2017 by the Attorney-General to ensure that the family law system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse. It discusses the case for reform, terms of reference, and overarching principles and provides an overview of the separate sections of the full report. Proposals include a comprehensive redraft of the Family Law Act, the requirement that parties take genuine steps to attempt to resolve their dispute prior to filing an application, considering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's connection to culture and country when making decisions, and handing control over the family law system to the states and territories, with the aim of improving the handling of domestic violence and child protection cases.

Family law for the future - an inquiry into the family law system

Australian Law Reform Commission
Brisbane, Qld. : Australian Law Reform Commission, 2019.
In 2017, the Attorney-General asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976, with a view to making necessary reforms to ensure the family law system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse. This report presents the findings and recommendations of this review. The terms of reference asked the review to consider whether, and if so what, reforms to the family law system are necessary or desirable, in particular regarding the protection of vulnerable parties, improving dispute resolution processes, enhancing the integrity of the family law system, and family law services and professionals. The review identified structural and systemic difficulties within the current family law system, in part created by impenetrable legislation, under-resourcing, and the bifurcated legislative regimes that deal with different aspects of matters that impact on families. Rather than presenting a single bold new initiative to address these issues, the review makes 60 recommendations for reform addressing all aspects of the system. Proposals include a comprehensive redraft of the Family Law Act, the requirement that parties take genuine steps to attempt to resolve their dispute prior to filing an application, considering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's connection to culture and country when making decisions, and handing control over the family law system to the states and territories, with the aim of improving the handling of domestic violence and child protection cases.

Family dispute resolution : use, timing, and outcomes.

Qu L
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy v. 40 no. 1 Mar 2019: 24-42
A key initiative of the 2006 Australian family law reforms is that most separating parents who have difficulty resolving disputes about parenting arrangements are now required to undertake Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). Parents who cannot reach an agreement through FDR or who meet certain exceptions may have their dispute handled by a court. This article investigates the use and outcomes of FDR, comparing the characteristics and circumstances of parents who used or who did not use FDR. It also investigates the impact of the timing of when FDR was undertaken after separation. Data is taken from three national studies of separated parents: the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families (LSSF), conducted in late 2008 and two cohorts from the Survey of Recently Separated Parents, conducted in late 2012 and late 2014. The finding indicate an increasing take-up of FDR among separated parents, and more positive outcomes and reaching agreement. However, the findings also show that more disadvantaged people are less likely to make use of FDR.

Review of the family law system

Australian Law Reform Commission
Sydney, NSW : Australian Law Reform Commission, 2018.
In August 2017, the Attorney-General asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to review the family law system. Following on from an issues paper, this discussion paper invites public submissions regarding 33 questions for consideration and 124 proposals for reform. Topics include: improving public understanding of the family law system, simplifying family law legislation, addressing service fragmentation, Families Hubs, expansion of the Family Advocacy and Support Service, expanding the availability of family dispute resolution, triage and risk assessment, co-location of courts, addressing concerns about adversarial processes, court safety and accessibility, integrated support services for children, supporting children's participation and right to be heard, misuse of systems and processes as family violence, management of unmeritorious proceedings, workforce capability plan, FDR practitioners and property matters, family violence training, Children's Contact Services, judicial appointments, reports in children's matters, professional wellbeing, iInformation sharing across systems, a new oversight body, privacy provisions, and definitions of family members.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine mandated pre-action procedures, registrar case management and information sharing.

Harman J
Family Law Review v. 7 no. 3 2018: 179-195
There are significant delays and a fast increasing workload in the family law system in Australia, prompting much media comment and a newly appointed review. This article considers what immediately available and practical solutions could be introduced into the Federal Circuit Court to address some of the underlying difficulties, to see a dramatic impact with only with only minimal resourcing or legislative change. It looks at pre-action and pre-filing procedures, the role of registrars in case management, the use of privately funded dispute resolution, and information sharing and co-location of services in cases involving family violence.

Screening for partner violence among family mediation clients : differentiating types of abuse.

Cleak H, Schofield M, Axelsen L and Bickerdike A
Journal of Interpersonal Violence v. 33 no. 7 Apr 2018: 1118-1146
Though mediation for couples in dispute over separation and parenting is not mandatory in cases of family violence, screening instruments are still at an early phase of development. This article examines the reliability and validity of some new and established scales for measuring intimate partner violence, as part of a larger study of clients attending family mediation centres in Victoria. The associations between types of abuse and other relationship indicators such as acrimony and parenting alliance are also examined, as well as the prevalence of different types of abuse among the client group. Most clients disclosed a history of at least one type of violence by their partner: 95% reported psychological aggression, 72% controlling and jealous behaviour, 50% financial control, and 35% physical assault. The implications for practice and research are also discussed.

A better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence: recommendations for an accessible, equitable and responsive family law system which better prioritises safety of those affected by family violence

Henderson S
Canberra : Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2017.
In March 2017, the Attorney-General commissioned an inquiry into how Australia's federal family law system can better support and protect people affected by family violence. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the inquiry, and advocates for an accessible, equitable, and responsive family law system which better prioritises the safety of families. Chapters include: Overview of the family law system; Challenges of current system; A new family law system; Property division and financial recovery; Matters involving children; Families with additional needs; Strengthening the capacity of family law professionals; and Ongoing support services.

A review of the literature on family dispute resolution and family violence : identifying best practice and research objectives for the next 10 years.

Dobinson S and Gray R
Australian Journal of Family Law v. 30 no. 3 May 2017: 180-204
Since 2006, parties to post-separation parenting disputes have been required to attempt family dispute resolution (FDR) before proceeding to court. While exemptions are available for cases involving family violence, research indicates that many parties to FDR have experienced violence in their relationships. Considerable effort has gone into developing best practice for these cases, yet difficulties in service delivery remain. As a leading service provider, Relationships Australia NSW undertook a comprehensive review of available literature with the aim of contributing to the development of best practice across the sector. Findings indicate that while there is consensus on several aspects of best practice, there remain numerous barriers. In this article, we discuss the effect of these barriers on best practice and highlight areas for further research. In doing so, we take stock of developments since 2006 and propose objectives for the next 10 years.

Family law in Australia.

Young L, Sifris A, Carroll R and Monahan G
Chatswood, N.S.W. : LexisNexis Butterworths, 2016.
This book examines the social, historical, and legal context of the family law system in Australia and discusses recent changes. Chapters are: Law, society and the family; Dispute resolution in family law; Violence and abuse; Constitutional powers and the family courts; Marriage and de facto relationships; Nullity, divorce and termination of de facto relationships; Parentage; Child related disputes: the legislative framework; Children and parents: the exercise of discretion in reallocating parental responsibility; Financial support of married and de facto partners; Financial support of children; and 4 chapters on property proceedings: preliminary issues, the legislative framework, the exercise of the discretion, and specific issues.

One way or many ways : screening for family violence in family mediation.

Cleak H and Bickerdike A
Family Matters no. 98 2016: 16-25
Research suggests that screening for family violence among mediation clients has not been very effective, and there is also significant disagreement as to what constitutes best practice for screening in this context. This article discusses the research on these issues, including family law reforms to address family violence, the prevalence of allegations of family violence among separating families, opportunities for and facilitating disclosure, barriers to disclosure, approaches to screening in mediation, Australian and international screening tools, prevalence and severity of partner violence among clients, and needed screening and risk assessment processes.

Are we actually doing more for families affected by family and domestic violence?

Lee J
CFCA short article - Practitioner's Corner series 2 Mar 2016
A recent study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies revealed that families affected by abuse were much more likely to approach services such as counselling and mediation. But what happens after these families approach these services? Does the presence of family and domestic violence make a difference to service response? Do providers actually do more for these families? This article briefly describes research from Relationships Australia South Australia on whether their universal screening procedures detect at-risk families, whether such families were referred to additional support services, and whether these families actually access these additional services.

Sense and sensitivity: family law, family violence, and confidentiality

Jones C
Lidcombe, NSW : Women's Legal Service NSW, 2016.
The majority of the work of the Women's Legal Service NSW community legal centre involves complex family law issues, with an intersection of family law, child protection, criminal law, and victims support jurisdictions in New South Wales. Drawing on their experiences, this paper examines the treatment of sensitive records and confidentiality in family law matters involving family dispute resolution and litigation and the victims of family violence. The paper examines the practices and consequences of information sharing, the unintended consequences of disclosing sensitive material, and the difficulties that arise from a lack of consensus about which potential evidentiary material is confidential and inadmissible. Whilst it is important to have the benefit of all relevant material to assist in making decisions in the best interests of the child, the potential consequences of breaching the confidentiality of therapeutic relationships must also be considered. The paper concludes with proposals for information sharing and subpoenas that aim to promote safety and the balancing of competing priorities when considering access to sensitive records.

Family law principles.

Harland A, Cooper D, Rathus Z and Alexander R
Pyrmont, N.S.W. : Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia, 2015.
This text book on family law focuses on issues of practice. Chapters include: the many meanings of family and family law; family court and jurisdictions; marriage, nullity and divorce; the family law dispute resolution system; legislative obligations in family dispute resolution; violence in the family; parenthood, parentage an parental responsibility; children and the family law act; relocation of children; family violence and child abuse in parenting cases; expert evidence and the role of social science in family law; alteration of property interests; advanced property topics; financial aspects of de facto and other formalised relationships; maintenance; financial support for children: child maintenance and child support; family lawyers: ethics and values; international family law issues; Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Australian family law in context : commentary and materials.

Parkinson P
Pyrmont, N.S.W. : Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia, 2015.
This text book for law students examines the operation of family law in Australia. Featuring notes and questions for discussion, it examines the context of families and family law, the resolution of family disputes, the formation and dissolution of marriage, economic aspects of relationship breakdown, and children in family law.

Collaborative practice in family law matters with coercive control-type family violence : preliminary thoughts from the practitioner coalface.

Easteal P, Herbert J and Kennedy J
Family Law Review v. 5 no. 1 Apr 2015: 13-33
This article investigates whether collaborative practice - the new dispute resolution approach in family law - is also appropriate in matters involving coercive control by partners. It reviews the Australian and overseas literature and interviews a small sample of lawyers about their experiences using collaborative practice, including issues in screening, power imbalances, and potential benefits and risks.

Appropriate dispute resolution in cases of family violence and the collaborative practice model.

Markwick K
Family Law Review v. 5 no. 1 Apr 2015: 4-12
This article argues that a collaborative practice model approach can improve responses to cases involving family violence. It discusses the features of this model as applied to family law disputes, the inadequacies of the current litigation approach, the limitations of mediation, and how a collaborative practice model can address these issues.

Australian family law : the contemporary context

Fehlberg B, Kaspiew R, Millbank J, Behrens J and Kelly F
South Melbourne, Vic. : Oxford University Press, 2015.
This text book aims to encourage critical thinking and a wide understanding of family law in Australia today. Chapters include: structural fragmentation: the constitutional framework; mechanics of fragmentation: the jurisdictional framework; the legal recognition of family relationships; family violence; introduction to parenting disputes; processes for resolving parenting disputes; legal framework for resolving parenting disputes; specific issues in parenting disputes; introduction to financial disputes; child support; processes for resolving property disputes; legal framework for resolving property disputes; specific issues in property disputes; and maintenance for spouses and de facto partners.

Inconsistencies in and the inadequacies of the family counselling and FDR confidentiality and admissibility provisions : the need for reform.

Cooper D
Family Law Review v. 4 no. 4 Dec 2014: 213-226
This article examines issues of admissibility and confidentiality in family dispute resolution (FDR) cases. Issues include whether admissions of child abuse or threats of violence can be used in court proceedings under the Family Law Act, and balancing professional integrity with the safety of family members.

Post-separation parenting, property and relationship dynamics after five years

Qu L, Weston R, Moloney L, Kaspiew R and Dunstan J
Canberra : Attorney-General's Dept., 2014
The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families examines the experiences, circumstances, and wellbeing of separated parents and their children in Australia. It was commissioned as part of the evaluation of the 2006 Family Law reforms, and three waves of surveys have now been conducted. This current report presents findings from wave 3, conducted in 2012 with 9,028 parents five years after separation. It explores the opinions and experiences of separated parents regarding: quality of inter-parental relationships; child-focused communication between parents; safety concerns and violence and abuse; use and perceived helpfulness of family law services; pathways for developing parenting arrangements; family dispute resolution; stability and change in care-time arrangements; property division and their timing and perceived fairness; and child support arrangements and compliance. The report also asks parents about their child's wellbeing, and compares this with care-time arrangements and family dynamics.

Family violence and family law : where to now?

Sifris A and Parker A
Family Law Review v. 4 no. 1 Apr 2014: 3-24
The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and other Measures Act) 2011 (Cth) introduced a number of amendments to the Family Law Act 11975 (Cth) relating to the manner in which courts exercising jurisdiction under the Act should deal with cases involving family violence and child abuse. This article examines these reforms, including the context in which they took place. It then argues that while the reforms are significant and will go some way towards improving the family law system's response to victims of violence and abuse, further reform is required. In particular, it is argued that if the family law system is to respond adequately to the high incidence of violence and abuse within separated families, provisions in the Family Law Act which treat family violence as an exception to the norm must be amended.

Families with complex needs : meeting the challenges of separation.

Kaspiew R, De Maio J, Deblaquiere J and Horsfall B
Hayes, Alan, ed. Higgins, Daryl J., ed. Families, policy and the law : selected essays on contemporary issues for Australia. Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014. 9781922038487: 215-224
This chapter identifies some of the main challenges pertinent to program development in relation to family law parenting disputes. As the evidence base about the families who use family law system services has expanded in recent years, it has become clear that better ways of meeting complex needs are required. Families that have the most need for services are those affected by issues such as family violence, child safety, mental illness and substance abuse. The evidence highlights the need for holistic, multidisciplinary responses in meeting the needs of these families, whose engagement with the system often requires solutions that address both legal and psychosocial issues in parenting disputes. This analysis draws on evidence from a recently released evaluation of the Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution (CFDR) pilot program to reflect on the service requirements of families with complex needs and the challenges in meeting them.

Separation: a guide for women.

Women's Legal Service (Brisbane, Qld.)
Annerley Qld. : Women's Legal Service Inc., 2013.
This online book provides an overview of legal information for women in Queensland who are considering or who have separated from their partner. It discusses where to get support and advice, issues about leaving home, domestic violence and protection orders, children and custody, child support, property settlements and maintenance, divorce applications, and mediation and dispute resolution. The book concludes with contact details for relevant Queensland services and agencies.

Centralising children's needs in dispute resolution in family violence cases.

Shea Hart A
Children Australia v. 38 no. 4 Dec 2013: 178-183
Family separation is a unique and dynamic process for each family. Family violence is a serious problem affecting societies across the world. It is a common driver for family dissolution. Children exposed to family violence face a distinctive predicament in their own adjustment, recovery and future relationships with their parents. Family dispute resolution is an increasing early intervention approach for separated families in conflict over parenting. Family dispute resolution practitioners are the gatekeepers for facilitating or preventing exploration of information about the complex relational dynamics, including risk and protective factors in each individual case. To avoid gambling with the child's future, it is crucial to centralise the needs of each individual child. An intervention approach to potentially enhance outcomes for the child, and therefore longer term outcomes for community and society, is child inclusive practice. However, this is not without complexity and challenges in cases of family violence.

Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution : findings and future directions.

Kaspiew R, Lewington M, Lynch A and Field R
29 October 2013
Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution (CFDR) was a pilot program applied in parenting cases where there was a history of family violence. The evaluation of the pilot, conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, highlighted a number of challenges arising in the context of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency practice with a complex client group. This webinar will examine learnings for practice from the empirical evaluation evidence. The webinar will also address justifications for the CFDR model, and whether there is an ongoing need for it in the family law system. Practical ideas that can be transferred from a CFDR environment to be implemented in family dispute resolution more generally will also be explored.

Family Support Program literature review: research into the Family Support Program - family law services

Brown T, Batagol B and Sourdin T
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Centre for Justice Innovation, Monash University, 2012.
The Australian Government's Family Support Program consists of a range of preventative and early intervention services, which includes legal services such as Family Relationship Centres, family dispute resolution, children's contact services, and relationship advice lines. As part of a broader study, this report reviews the literature on the effectiveness of government-run family law services in Australia as well as best practice in service delivery and performance measurement. Specifically, it investigates: the range of available interventions and services, usage by people from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds and effectiveness in meeting their needs (including people experiencing family violence and Indigenous people), use of technology to deliver services and improving non-face-to-face service delivery, appropriateness of performance and quality measurement arrangements, meeting the needs of families who are in conflict or separating, and meeting the best interests of children. Specific services include: Family Relationship Centres, Family Dispute Resolution services, Regional Family Dispute Resolution services, Post Separation Co-operative Parenting services, Parenting Orders Program, Children's Contact Services, Supporting Children after Separation Program, and Family Relationship Advice Line.
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