Issue 98

Family Matters No. 98, 2016

Journal issue feature image

Future directions for the family law system

This edition of Family Matters focuses on family law, donor conception and elder abuse.

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Executive Editors: Rae Kaspiew & Rachel Carson

Editorial panel: Rae Kaspiew, Rachel Carson, Daryl Higgins and Elly Robinson

Editor: Katharine Day

Cover art: The Family Matters No. 98 cover painting is by Shan Richards, Waterfall Window, acrylic on canvas 30 cm x 30cm. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. View Shan’s work at his website.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 98
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, November 2016, 75 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Identifying and responding to family violence and child safety concerns: Findings from the AIFS Evaluation of the 2012 family violence amendments

Rachel Carson, Rae Kaspiew, Jessie Dunstan, Lixia Qu, Briony Horsfall, John De Maio, Sharnee Moore, Lawrie Moloney, Melissa Coulson and Sarah Tayton

The Australian Institute of Family Studies was commissioned to evaluate the 2012 reforms to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) aimed at improving the family law system's responses to matters involving family violence and safety concerns. This article summarises the methodology and findings of the study, which was published across 4 reports in late 2015. The evaluation research program consisted of: the Responding to Family Violence Study, which primarily involved a survey of family law system professionals on their practices and experiences; the  Experiences of Separated Parents Study, which provided pre- and postreform data on parents' experiences of separation and the family law system; and the Court Outcomes Project, which analysed administrative and court file data, in addition to an analysis of published court judgments. Together, these studies examined whether the amendments introduced by Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth) had affected key areas including patterns of parenting arrangements, disclosures of family violence and safety concerns, patterns in service use, and professional and court-based practices and court-based and court-endorsed outcomes, or produced any unintended consequences.

One way or many ways: Screening for family violence in family mediation

Helen Cleak and Andrew Bickerdike

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.

Laying the guideposts for participatory practice: Children’s participation in family law matters

Kylie Beckhouse

This article considers the issue of children’s participation in family law matters in Australia, focusing on the role of Independent Children’s Lawyers. Drawing on international learnings, it reviews how children’s voices in family law court proceedings are heard, analyses different approaches, identifies some structural impediments that may inhibit participatory practice, and outlines some enhancements that could be made to improve children's participation in the Australian family law system.

The Family Law DOORS: Research and practice updates

Jennifer McIntosh, Jamie Lee and Claire Ralfs

The Family Law DOORS (FL-DOORS) is a whole-of-family risk screening tool designed for use across the family law sector. It was released in Australia in March 2013. Following on from an earlier evaluation study by the Australian Institute for Family Studies that claimed only limited take-up of the tool, this article addresses the criticisms and presents new evidence on current use of and research with the FL-DOORS, referring to data from over 7,200 cases.

Donor identification: Victorian legislation gives rights to all donor-conceived people

Sonia Allan

In February 2016, new legislation was passed in Victoria that enables all donor-conceived people to obtain identifying information about their sperm, oocyte or embryo donors. This article describes the importance of this legislation, its history and development, how it will operate, and the requirements for information release. This new legislation - known as ‘Narelle's Law’ - is very progressive and provides a model approach for other countries and jurisdictions.

The family law implications of early contact between sperm donors and their donor offspring

Fiona Kelly and Deborah Dempsey

Many jurisdictions have introduced legislation to ensure that donor-conceived adults can access their donor’s identity. However, these laws are increasingly being used by the parents of donor-conceived children to make contact with donors while their children are still minors. This article considers the possible family law implications of such early contact, in particular whether the donor could ever be declared a legal parent or successfully apply for an order to spend time with the child. The article also presents findings from a study on parents’ experiences of connecting with donors, which involved interviews with 25 single Australian women who conceived using donated sperm or embryos.

Elder abuse

Rae Kaspiew, Rachel Carson and Helen Rhoades

This article provides an overview of the prevalence and nature of elder abuse in Australia. Topics include: What is elder abuse?; The prevalence and dynamics of elder abuse; Risk factors and consequences; Particular types of elder abuse; and Disclosure and reporting. Prevention opportunities and frameworks are also considered.