Issue 92

Family Matters No. 92, 2013

Journal issue feature image

Exercising wisdom: Deciding family law matters

This issue of Family Matters focuses on presentations made at the 12th Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference, 25-27 July 2012. The articles in this edition particularly address family law issues.

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Executive Editors: Jacqueline Stewart and Kelly Hand

Editorial panel: Kelly Hand, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Rae Kaspiew, Lawrie Moloney, Elly Robinson, Jacqueline Stewart

Editor: Lan Wang

Cover art: The Family Matters 92 cover painting is by John Graham, Three Kings, oil on linen, 151 x121 cm. Reproduced with the authority of Hawthorn Studio & Gallery <>

Publication details

Family Matters No. 92
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, July 2013, 83 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

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Violence, abuse and the limits of shared parental responsibility

Patrick Parkinson

In the last thirty years, profound changes have occurred in family law all around the Western world. Whereas once family law was premised on the indissolubility of marriage, now a defining feature of family law in Western societies is the notion that parenthood is indissoluble. There has come to be a recognition that children generally benefit from the involvement of both parents in their lives - in the absence of serious violence, abuse or high conflict between parents - and therefore children's relationship with both parents ought to be supported after separation. This article traces this trend and argues that though the indissolubility of parenthood is appropriate for most separated parents, limitations on joint parental responsibility are also appropriate in cases of family violence concerns and in cases where the parents have never lived together as a family.

The effects of co-parenting relationships with ex-spouses on couples in step-families

Claire Cartwright and Kerry Gibson

This article explores shared-parenting relationships after a former spouse has repartnered. It presents findings from interviews with 16 couples, recruited from the Couples in Repartnered (Step-) Families study in New Zealand. The couples discussed themes of co-parenting issues with former spouses, stresses on the new stepfamily, and conflict over parenting, flexible arrangements, and child support.

Post-separation parenting and financial arrangements over time : Recent qualitative findings

Belinda Fehlberg and Christine Millward

Previous research has indicated that there tends to be "maternal drift" from shared parenting time back towards primary mother care in the few years after parental separation. This article explores this issue further. It presents findings from a qualitative study in Victoria, conducted from 2009 to 2011, that examined the links over time between parenting arrangements and financial arrangements - in particular, whether mothers and children suffered financial disadvantage if time sharing reverted to primary mother care. Sixty parents were interviewed once a year over three years, with a sample of 22 children also interviewed in the final year. Key themes from the data include the importance of having cooperative, flexible and child-focused parenting relationships, regardless of the parenting time split; the ongoing role of mothers as the main caregivers and decision-makers for children; fathers' satisfaction with shared time; the often divisive role played by new partners; and the negative effects of family violence when perpetrators continued to exercise control through parenting arrangements.

Children's direct participation and the views of Australian judges

Michelle Fernando

Of the hundreds of children's matters decided in Family Law Courts in Australia each year, there are only one or two cases in which a judicial officer will meet with a child. This article discusses the issue of children's direct participation in family law matters by examining why some judges choose to hear directly from children. The article discusses judges' views on meeting with children, drawing on results from the author's survey of Australian family law judicial officers about their experiences and attitudes to meeting with children. It examines why meetings between Australian judges and children are so rare and makes recommendations for how children can better be heard. These issues are discussed in the context of the international literature on children's views about their level of participation in family law proceedings.

Good practices with culturally diverse families in family dispute resolution

Susan Armstrong

Dispute resolution practitioners should be aware of how culture is embedded in mediation processes and of the cultural values and communication patterns they and the parties bring to the process. This awareness will help them to engage in respectful dialogue about cultural contexts, respond ethically to the cultural power dynamics present in the mediation, and support the control that parties have over the mediation. This article presents findings from research on good practices in enhancing access for and engaging with clients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in the family dispute resolution (FDR) process. Surveys and interviews with practitioners were conducted nationally and locally in the Western Sydney region on good practice and organisational cultural competence and how these might be enhanced.

Opinion: Bullying in schools and its relation to parenting and family life

Ken Rigby

Drawing on the international research, this article examines the association between parenting factors and the involvement of children in bullying at school, whether as bullies or victims. Topics include: parental awareness and beliefs about bullying; insecure attachment and later involvement in bullying; family functioning; parenting style; and the role of low or excessive self-esteem. The article concludes with the implications for parent education.

Parental involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying

Elly Robinson

Parents play a critical role in ensuring their children's responsible and safe use of online services, as part of a whole-of-community response to cyberbullying. This article helps practitioners and other professionals assist parents in clarifing their roles and helping teenage children engage in responsible online behaviour. It outlines definitions and statistics related to cyberbullying, explains the differences between cyberbullying and "offline" bullying, and discusses parents' roles and involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying incidents. The article also provides information on additional sources of advice and support.

Families working together : Getting the balance right

Jennifer Baxter

This article examines the ways in which men and women balance their time at different stages of their life, focusing on paid work, child care and house work, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends. It highlights how time commitments vary over the life course, and how families can face time pressure from these competing demands on their time. Data is taken from the national census, the HILDA survey, and the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. This article is a reprint of a separately published fact sheet, produced in support of the 2013 National Families Week.