Issue 77

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Family Matters No. 77, 2007

Journal issue feature image

Family relationships

Family relationships and the new family law system; programs to help stepfamilies and pre-marriage education; parent-child relationships

Contents

Features

Regular Reports

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Acknowledgements

Executive Editor: Rae Kaspiew

Editorial panel: Catherine Caruana, Matthew Gray, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Sue Tait, Ruth Weston

Editor: Lan Wang

Cover art: Audrey Rhoda. My students my children 1, 2007, Oils & wax on board, 40 x 40 cm. Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist/Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 77
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2007, 84 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information

Abstracts

Family relationships: Change and complexity

Rae Kaspiew

This edition of 'Family Matters' focuses on family relationships, and includes articles on allegations of family violence, law reform, pre-marriage education for stepfamilies, and father involvement. This guest editorial introduces the articles, and discusses how law reform is responding to changing families and changing relationships.

Allegations of family violence and child abuse in family law children's proceedings: Key findings of Australian Institute of Family Studies Research Report No. 15.

Lawrie Moloney, Bruce Smyth, Ruth Weston, Nicholas Richardson, Lixia Qu and Matthew Gray

In this article, the authors' discuss the key findings of their 2007 report, 'Allegations of family violence and child abuse in child-related disputes in family law proceedings', published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. This report was commissioned by the Attorney General's Department to examine the prevalence and nature of allegations of family violence and child abuse in family law children's proceedings; the extent to which alleging parties provided evidence in support of their allegations, and to which allegations were denied, admitted or left unanswered by the other party; and the extent to which court outcomes of post-separation parenting disputes appeared to be related to the presence or absence of allegations. The study investigated the records of 300 Family Court and Magistrate Court files in Victoria and South Australia from 2003. This article outlines the legal background and research methodology, and discusses the findings.

Implications of the Australian Institute of Family Studies "Allegations of Family Violence and Child Abuse in Family law Children's Proceedings" report: Response from the Family Court of Australia


In this article, the Family Court of Australia commends the research report, 'Allegations of family violence and child abuse in child-related disputes in family law proceedings', published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2007. The article emphasises the value of reliable evidence and guidelines in judicial decision making, and highlights Family Court initiatives in improving practices and outcomes, such as the Less Adversarial Trial, the Child Responsive Model, and staff training.

Federal Magistrates Court response to the Australian Institute of Family Studies "Allegations of Family Violence and Child Abuse in Family law Children's Proceedings" report


The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia discusses the practice implications of the research report, 'Allegations of family violence and child abuse in child-related disputes in family law proceedings', published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2007. The article notes the prevalence of domestic violence and child abuse allegations in court cases, the legal challenges they present when there is little corroborating evidence, and the impact that alleged domestic violence can have on all parties involved. The use of sensitive and flexible case management and court processes can assist with decision making and improve the court experience for families.

Implications for family dispute resolution practice: Response from Relationships Australia (Victoria) to the "Allegations of Family Violence and Child Abuse in Family law Children's Proceedings" report

Andrew Bickerdike

This article discusses allegations of family violence in cases presenting to family dispute resolution (FDR) services, and the procedural challenges these present. Just like the high prevalence of allegations in court cases - as examined by the research report 'Allegations of family violence and child abuse in child-related disputes in family law proceedings' - FDR services face increasing numbers of violence-affected clients, many of whom will enter the court system. The article discusses service provision; quality assurance; assessing allegations; the use of FDR prior to court; adversarial courts versus the FDR process - 'allegation' versus 'disclosure'; client outcomes; and practitioner neutrality versus advocacy.

Separating safety from situational violence: Response to "Allegations of family violence and child abuse in family law children's proceedings": A pre-reform exploratory study

Alice Bailey

The research report 'Allegations of family violence and child abuse in child-related disputes in family law proceedings', published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2007, provides evidence challenging a common myth that women frequently claim false allegations of family violence in child custody cases. Unfortunately, unless these allegations are accompanied by strong evidence, they will have little impact on post-separation child contact. This article discusses these findings, and the wider debate on whether courts should discriminate between different forms or severity of domestic abuse. The author argues that child and carer safety must be of paramount concern, requiring separate court pathways for cases involving domestic violence, and improved resources for assessment and support.

'Less adversarial' proceedings in children's cases

Richard Chisholm

The 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act included provisions establishing a new, less adversarial approach to the hearing of children's cases. This article describes the old adversarial system; judicial decision making; previous, smaller changes to children's cases; the development of the Children's Cases Program, a pilot program run by the Family Court in New South Wales; and less adversarial principles and duties under the new legislation. The author is optimistic that these developments will improve outcomes for children and families in the court system.

Snapshots from the Family Relationship Centres album

Catherine Caruana

Family Relationship Centres (FRC) offer information, advice, and mediation to people with relationship difficulties, and those starting or ending relationships. They are a major part of the 2006 family law reform in Australia, with 65 Centres scheduled to be operational by July 2008. This article profiles several of the Centres and includes interviews with Gai Campbell, Paula Washington, and Steve Hackett - FRC clinicians and managers from Ringwood in Victoria, Townsville in Queensland, and Penrith in New South Wales. They describe the Centres' services, clients, typical processes, and any allegations of family violence.

Evaluation of the family law reform package


Family law was significantly reformed in 2006 in Australia, with the main intentions of promoting child-centred practices and fostering cooperative dispute resolution by families. The law reform included new legislation, revamped court processes, and expanded services including the network of Family Relationship Centres. This article describes the Australian Institute of Family Studies' forthcoming evaluation of the family law reform package. The evaluation will examine the response of the legal system, the work of the new services (the 'Services Provision project'), and the impact on families (including the 'Separated Families Project'). This article also includes the report 'Magellan Project Evaluation 2006-2007: a brief overview of the methodology', by Daryl Higgins, which summarises the methodology used by the Institute in evaluating the Family Court of Australia's Magellan case management system for cases involving allegations of child abuse.

Unwrapping the family law reform package

Catherine Caruana

This 'family law update' examines recent developments in Australian family law, mid-way through the phased-in family law system reform period. Developments include the first decision on the application of the new Family Law Act, in regards to a child contact case; the roll out of a second wave of Family Relationship Centres; and changes to the Child Support Scheme. Inconsistencies in the legal status of same-sex domestic relationships are also discussed. A review, by Rae Kaspiew, of an Australian survey is also included, entitled 'How well do mediators and lawyers work together?'

Promoting healthy stepfamilies: Couples' reasons for seeking help and perceived benefits from intervention

Jan Nicholson, Maddy Phillips, Sarah Whitton, Kim Halford and Matthew Sanders

Stepfamilies are challenging environments that can threaten the health and wellbeing of family members. Yet the reluctance of stepfamily members to seek assistance through family interventions has been well documented. This paper reviews research on interventions for stepfamilies, and examines Australian data from a stepfamily program designed to promote healthy stepfamily relationships (The 'StepPrep' program). It explores the reasons why some stepfamilies seek help and the gains they report from stepfamily interventions.

The effectiveness of marriage and relationship education programs.

Robyn Parker

Examinations of the effectiveness of marriage and relationship education programs are typically relatively complex and small-scale, short-term studies of particular programs that demonstrate some improvements in couples' relationship satisfaction and relational skills. Such studies are unable to draw conclusions as to whether these programs can reduce the likelihood of divorce. However, this article reports on a recent analysis of a large-scale survey in which lower odds of divorce were found to be associated with participation in a pre-marriage education program.

When Dad works long hours: How work hours are associated with fathering 4-5-year-old children

Jennifer Baxter

The role of the father is multifaceted, with fathers often undertaking the breadwinner role in couple families, spending time with children, and providing support and assistance to the mother. This paper uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to examine relationships between fathers' hours of paid employment and the extent to which they undertake these roles in families with children aged 4-5 years.