Responding to family violence
- Executive summary
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Overview of the effects of the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth)
- 3. Family violence and child abuse: Amended definitions and the removal of perceived legislative disincentives to disclosure
- 4. Identifying and assessing harm and risk of harm
- 5. Service-use dynamics after the family violence reforms
- 6. Responding to harm and risk of harm
- 7. Parents' experiences
- 8. Consequences of the family violence reforms: Qualitative insights
- 9. Summary and conclusions
- Appendix A: Notice of Risk (SA Pilot) and Form 4 Notice
- Appendix B: Understanding of the exceptions to FLA s60I
This report presents the findings of Responding to Family Violence: A Survey of Family Law Practices and Experiences (Survey of Practices). This study is the first component of a three-part research program, the Evaluation of the 2012 Family Violence Amendments, that examines the effects of amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FLA) that came into operation on 7 June 2012. These reforms were intended to improve the way in which concerns about family violence, child abuse and child safety are dealt with in parenting matters across the family law system. The Evaluation of the 2012 Family Violence Amendments was commissioned and is funded by the Attorney-General's Department (AGD). The key goal of the research is to examine the extent to which the aims of the 2012 family violence amendments are being realised. These aims include improving the family law system's ability to identify family violence and child safety concerns and to support parenting arrangements that prioritise the protection of children from harm over their right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with each parent where these aims are in conflict.
The views and experiences of professionals working across the family law system were examined on the basis of quantitative and qualitative data from judicial officers and registrars, lawyers and non-legal family law professionals (e.g., family consultants and family dispute resolution practitioners). Telephone interviews were also undertaken with parents who used family law system services in the period of approximately 12 months preceding August 2014 to examine their experiences of these services. Overall, 653 professionals across the various groupings contributed to the data collection, together with 2,473 parents (a sub-sample derived from the first half of the fieldwork period for the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2014, n = 3,428) who reported using family law system services in the relevant period.
The Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth) was introduced to improve the family law system's response to family violence. In particular, it aims to better support the disclosure of concerns about family violence, child abuse and child safety by parents engaged in the family law system and to encourage professionals to respond to these disclosures in a manner that prioritises protection from harm. These family violence reforms respond to the findings and recommendations of three reports (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. House of Representatives, 2011 p. 1), namely the Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms (Kaspiew et al., 2009), the Family Courts Violence Review (Chisholm, 2009) and Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System (Family Law Council, 2009).a
The main elements of the 2012 family violence reforms involved:
- introducing wider definitions of "family violence" and "abuse" (s 4AB and s 4(1));
- clarifying that in determining the best interests of the child, greater weight is to be given to the protection of children from harm where this conflicts with the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with each parent after separation (s 60CC(2A));
- strengthening the emphasis placed on protecting children from harm by imposing obligations on advisersb to inform parents/parties that post-separation decision making about parenting should reflect this priority and that they should regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration (s 60D);
- imposing a legislative obligation on an "interested person" (including parties to proceedings and Independent Children's Lawyers [ICLs]) to file a Form 4 Notice/Notice of Riskc when making an allegation of family violence or risk of family violence (s 67ZBA);
- when making an allegation that a child has been abused or is at risk of being abused, extending the obligation to file a Form 4 Notice/Notice of Risk to "interested persons" (including ICLs) as well as parties to proceedings (s 67Z);
- imposing obligations on parties to proceedings to inform the courts about whether the child in the matter or another child in the family has been the subject of the attention of prescribed child welfare authorities (s 60CI);
- imposing a duty on the court to actively enquire about whether the party considers that the child has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to, or exposed to family violence, child abuse or neglect (s 69ZQ(1)(aa)(i)), and about whether the party considers that he or she, or another party to the proceedings, has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to family violence (s 69ZQ(1)(aa)(ii));
- setting out the court's obligation to take prompt action in relation to a Form 4 Notice/Notice of Risk filed in relation to allegations of child abuse or family violence (s 67ZBB);
- amending the additional best interests consideration relating to family violence orders (s 60CC(3)(k)); and
- amending and repealing provisions that might have discouraged disclosure of concerns about child abuse and family violence.
The AVERT Family Violence: Collaborative Responses in the Family Law System (AGD, 2010) and the DOORS Detection of Overall Risk Screen (McIntosh & Ralfs, 2012) were two further initiatives implemented in recent years with the intention of improving practices in relation to identifying, assessing and responding to risks and harm factors in the family law system context.
The findings presented in this report are based on data collected in two studies:
- The multidisciplinary surveys of judicial officers and registrars (n = 37); lawyers (barristers and solicitors) (n = 322) and non-legal family law system professionals (n = 294) were predominantly administered online. Participants were recruited with the assistance of the Family Court of Australia (FCoA); the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC); the Family Court of Western Australia (FCoWA); National Legal Aid; the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia; state, territory and regional law associations and bar associations; the Women's Legal Services in each state and territory; Family Relationship Services Australia; and the Australian Psychological Society Family Law and Psychology Interest Group.
- Telephone interviews were conducted with parents who comprised a sub-sample of parents participating in the Experiences With Services module of the Surveys of Recently Separated Parents (SRSP) 2014. This group reported on their use of family law system services in the 12 months or so prior to August 2014 (n = 2,473).
Some of the findings are based on comparisons of responses to questions that were asked in both the Survey of Practices and some previous surveys conducted as part of the Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms (Kaspiew et al., 2009), supporting analysis of whether views on particular issues relating to the family law system's response to family violence and child safety concerns have changed as a result of the reforms.
Reforms are a step in the right direction
The findings of this study indicate that the family violence reforms are a step in the right direction in the context of a reform agenda that seeks to prioritise protection from harm in the family law system. Overall, most aspects of the reforms have the support of a majority of professionals across the system.
Of the three groups surveyed, support was greatest among non-legal professionals, though most aspects were supported by majorities of participants across the groups. In relation to a question about whether the family law system "needed the family violence reforms", 77% of all participants agreed that it did and only 16% disagreed. There were marked differences between the groups on the extent of endorsement of this proposition, with non-legal professionals being most positive (88%) and judicial officers and registrars having lower affirmative ratings (57%).
The responses of lawyers participating in the 2014 survey also reflected a greater level of support for the 2012 family violence reforms when compared with the level of support for the 2006 family law reforms by lawyers participating in the earlier 2008 Family Lawyers Survey (FLS). In 2008, just over 70% of the lawyers disagreed with the proposition that the "family law system needs the current  reform package".
In relation to the balance between protecting children from harm and supporting their right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents after separation, a larger majority of professionals agreed that the system placed "adequate priority" on having a meaningful relationship (87%) compared with protecting children from harm (67%). In relation to protection from harm, levels of endorsement among lawyers (the only group for whom comparison data are available) were higher in 2014 than in 2008 (68% cf. 55%). At the same time, agreement in relation to having a meaningful relationship increased slightly over the same period (89% cf. 86%). These findings suggest that improvement in relation to protecting children from harm has not come at the expense of supporting meaningful relationships where this is in a child's best interest.
Data from lawyers also indicate that compared with the 2006 reforms, the 2012 family violence reforms were less likely to be seen to be associated with an increase in litigation, less likely to result in shared parenting arrangements in high-conflict circumstances, and more likely to be of benefit to most children. The comparison between lawyers' responses in 2008 and 2014 indicate that the 2012 family violence reforms were an improvement from the perspective of this group, suggesting that the 2012 family violence reforms are more consistent with lawyers' understanding of children's developmental needs than the 2006 reforms. However, the response patterns to the question of whether the "current framework makes it easy to reach arrangements that are developmentally appropriate" suggest this issue continues to be problematic. Across all professional groups, marginally more professionals disagreed than agreed with the proposition (44% cf. 43%). The group that works most closely with the framework in day-to-day practice, judicial officers and registrars, were least likely to be positive in relation to this proposition (27% agreed).
Shifts were also identified in relation to lawyers' advice-giving practices about fathers seeing children, about allegations of family violence and about parenting disputes. The most substantial change was evident in relation to advice about family violence, with 64% of this participant group indicating in 2014 that they had changed their advice about allegations of family violence, compared with 47% in 2008, and with 59% of lawyers also indicating that they had changed their advice about child abuse allegations since the 2012 family violence reforms.
Support found for specific legislative amendments
Consistently positive findings also emerged in relation to the introduction of FLA s 60CC(2A) and the amended definitions of family violence and abuse. A substantial majority of professional participants agreed that FLA s 60CC(2A) was helpful (86% agreeing cf. 11% disagreeing). A question probing whether this made a difference at a practical level attracted a lower level of endorsement: 70% of the sample agreed that "protection from harm is accorded greater weight when relevant".
The new definitions of family violence and child abuse also attracted the support of majorities of participants in each professional group. A majority (73%) of the aggregate sample agreed that the new definitions supported the making of parenting arrangements that were safer for parents and children, with limited differences between the professional groups evident on this question. However, lower rates of affirmative responses were provided by professional participants in relation to whether the new definitions were associated with an improvement in the family law system's ability to identify, assess and respond to non-physical forms of family violence, with 37% of the aggregate sample indicating that the identification, assessment of and response to the these forms of harm had improved since the family violence reforms.
Further insight into the definitional issues was provided by the qualitative data, with comments from each professional group indicating that the amended definitions facilitated their work with clients in relation to the behaviours that might constitute family violence or abuse, although other responses to survey questions concerning the definitions and improved understandings among various stakeholders suggest improvement is still required in this regard. More specifically, the qualitative data reflected a range of views about whether the new definition in s 4AB operated in practice to broaden or narrow the range of behaviour that might qualify as family violence, with some participating professionals lauding its acknowledgement of less overt forms of family violence but others expressing concern that the breadth of the current definition now reduced the focus on identifying violence that was considered to be of a more serious nature.
In relation to the repeal of provisions of the FLA that were regarded as discouraging disclosure of concerns about family violence and child safety, the data suggest that, in general, participants did not associate the repeal of s 117AB costs provision with an increase in disclosures of family violence or child abuse, or an increase in the making of false allegations in this regard. Of note, disagreement with a negative effect was most evident among judicial professionals, the participant group most likely to have insight into the making of false allegations in the context of court proceedings. Overall, a similar lack of effect was suggested in relation to the repeal of the s 60CC(3) "friendly parent" criterion, although non-legal professionals were more likely to report that this amendment gave rise to a change in behaviour.
Although the survey findings indicate that a majority of professionals endorse the direction of the reforms, including the expanded definitions, a minority of professionals (more so lawyers than any other group) believed the reforms had led to more false or exaggerated claims of family violence or abuse. Concerns of this nature are not new in the family law system.
Improvement required in the identification, assessment and response to family violence and child abuse
Findings in relation to day-to-day practice across the system in identifying/screening, assessing and responding appropriately to concerns about family violence and child abuse suggest practice in this area continues to evolve, with room for further improvement.
More professionals in the aggregate sample disagreed than agreed with the proposition that the legal system had been able to screen adequately for family violence and child abuse (46% vs 43%). Similarly, a greater proportion of the aggregate sample disagreed than agreed with the proposition that the legal system had been able to deal adequately with cases involving allegations of family violence and child abuse (49% vs 41%). Differences among professionals were important in this context, with non-legal professionals being less confident than lawyers, and judicial officers/registrars responding most positively in this regard. Lawyers and non-legal professionals demonstrated higher levels of confidence in their own sector's capacity in these areas, and less confidence in the capacity of the other sectors: lawyers were less positive about Family Relationship Centres (FRCs), and non-legal professionals were less positive about lawyers.
Comparative data from lawyers participating in the FLS 2008 for the Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms indicate a slight improvement over time in these areas, with slightly higher affirmative responses from lawyers in 2014 when reflecting on whether the legal system has been able to screen for and deal adequately with cases involving allegations of family violence and child abuse. However, in both surveys, majorities of the sample returned negative responses, underlining the point that practice in this regard still has some way to go.
More specifically, the data relating to changes in professional practices in the period of time since the inception of the family violence reforms indicated that judicial and legal participants were in strong agreement that courts now more actively enquired about the existence of child abuse and family violence, while non-legal professionals were less positive on this front. However, when participants reflected on their own practice approaches, they were more likely to indicate that these practices had not changed since the introduction of the family violence reforms, with a greater proportion of non-legal professionals than lawyers reporting that they regularly asked their clients directly about family violence, risk of family violence, child abuse or child safety concerns. Professionals' self-assessments showed that a majority of lawyers and non-legal professionals were confident in their capacity to screen for family violence, with a substantially higher proportion of positive responses coming from lawyers participating in the Survey of Practices than those participating in the FLS 2008. A majority of judicial officers and registrars also reflected positively on their own capacity to assess allegations of family violence and abuse.
The findings from the parents' module support the assessment of a need for further improvement in the identification of family violence. Substantial minorities (29-46%) of parents who experienced physical violence indicated that they had not been asked about this by the primary services (i.e., family dispute resolution [FDR], FRCs, lawyers, legal services and courts), and majorities (53%) who had experienced emotional abuse and used lawyers and courts indicated they had not been asked about emotional abuse. Parents who experienced emotional abuse were most likely to report being asked about this during FDR (69%) and at FRCs (77%). Substantial minorities of parents who had experienced physical violence reported not disclosing this to the primary service (between 31% and 35%), and majorities (55-77%) who had experienced emotional abuse reported not disclosing this to the primary service. Overall, parents were less likely to report disclosing family violence to lawyers than at FDR, courts and FRCs. Women were most likely to report disclosing to family violence services (too few men had accessed these services to support analysis).
Mixed views of screening and assessment tools
Findings relating to screening and assessment tools indicate that while professionals generally used a broad range of screening and assessment tools, DOORS was not widely used at the time of the survey. Most lawyers and non-legal professionals reported that they rarely or never used this tool (51%, lawyers; 69%, non-legal professionals). Qualitative data on this issue provided detailed insight into professionals' reflections and experiences of DOORS, and while there were a number of positive responses, particularly from non-legal professionals, concerns were raised about the accessibility of training sessions, and there were mixed views on the DOORS approach to screening and assessment and its workability in everyday practice. Some participants emphasised the utility of the client interview process and the significance of professional skill, knowledge and experience in identifying risks and harm factors in this context.
Data relating to evidence-gathering practices aimed at facilitating the assessment of and response to risks and harm factors indicated that judicial participants reflected more positively than lawyers on the utility and effectiveness of the Form 4 Notice. The open-ended responses of most lawyers reflecting on the Form 4 Notice as it stood at the time of the survey were negative in nature. The quantitative data on this issue indicated that a majority of the participating lawyers disagreed that when they filed a Form 4 Notice it was effective in yielding appropriate responses; that is, safer parenting arrangements for parents and children in cases involving these risks and harm factors. Open-ended survey responses from some participants also pointed to the repetitive and cumbersome nature of the Form 4 Notice, and the limited effects that the filing of the Notice was perceived to have on the responses of courts, responding parties and prescribed child welfare authorities to secure safer outcomes for children and family members.
Further data on the evidence-gathering practices of lawyers after the family violence reforms indicate increases in applications for subpoena documents from child protection services and police for a majority of participating lawyers, with substantial proportions of judicial participants also providing affirmative views with respect to the effects of the reforms on a broad range of evidence-gathering tasks undertaken by lawyers. Data on professional practices when preparing court documentation since the family violence reforms also indicated an increase in the details provided of family violence, the exposure of children to family violence and of child abuse and child safety concerns in affidavit material and in the family reports and memoranda of family consultants and single experts.
Perceptions that some parenting arrangements have changed
Almost half of the aggregate sample of professional participants (49%) reported that the family violence reforms had resulted in more arrangements for supervised or neutral venue changeovers. While affirmative responses were largely consistent across each participant category, responses from judicial officers, registrars and lawyers reflected higher levels of disagreement than non-legal professionals on this proposition. A smaller proportion of the aggregate sample of participants (44%) agreed that the family violence reforms resulted in more supervised time arrangements, with greater consistency emerging in the affirmative responses of lawyers and non-legal professionals. In contrast, only 21% of the aggregate sample of participants agreed that the reforms had resulted in more arrangements for no parenting time, with a substantially greater proportion disagreeing. Interestingly, judicial officers, registrars and lawyers reflected lower levels of agreement than non-legal professionals on this question. A notable finding, however, was that a majority of participating lawyers (60%) agreed that to a greater degree courts now prioritised safety from family violence and child abuse at the interim hearing stage.
Service use and advice provided by professionals have shifted
The 2014 survey data, together with comparison data from the Survey of Family Relationship Services (FRS) Staff 2009, indicate that substantial proportions of service caseloads involved clients with high levels of conflict and complex needs, including those arising from family violence and child abuse. There was a slightly higher tendency to nominate larger proportions of clients as being characterised by high conflict in 2014 and for whom FDR was identified as inappropriate due to child abuse or neglect or due to family violence.
Substantial minorities of both lawyers (39%) and non-legal professionals (36%) indicated in 2014 that they had changed the advice that they gave clients on the use of FDR. In particular, there was a substantial increase in the proportion of lawyers who agreed that FDR should "almost always" be considered when levels of conflict were relatively low (2008: 14%; 2014: 33%).
The data from this study indicate that most professionals believe other professionals understand the exceptions to s 60I quite well. This finding has strengthened only marginally over time. However, in relation to parents, most professionals believe the s 60I exceptions are not well understood by most family law system clients, though a limited amount of improvement may have occurred over time. Regardless of levels of understanding of these exceptions, particularly those in relation to family violence and child abuse, it is clear that parents affected by these issues continue to present for and receive FDR services. This occurred to a lesser extent in relation to child abuse compared to family violence. The presence of these issues does not automatically lead to the issue of a certificate, and the proportions of professionals indicating that FDR is provided in such circumstances has remained relatively stable over time.
The data also indicate that both lawyers and non-legal professionals refer their clients to family violence support services on a regular basis, although lawyers were slightly more likely to report making such referrals in a higher number of cases (16% nominated "three-quarters or more" compared to 12% of non-legal professionals). Non-legal professionals also reported referring clients to lawyers to a substantial degree (47% nominating "about three-quarters or more") and referrals by lawyers to FRCs and relationship support services have also increased.
Most parents were satisfied with services
Overall, three in four parents interviewed accessed at least one service in relation to their separation. Lawyers were the most commonly used service by both mothers and fathers in this sample, followed by FDR and FRCs. The majority of parents reported that they accessed the service via informal pathways - predominantly self-referrals (43%), with formal referrals provided most commonly from lawyers (12%). Higher proportions of parents who had experienced family violence reported that they accessed the service by a referral from another service.
Although parents who had experienced family violence were more likely to report dissatisfaction with a service than parents who had not experienced family violence, majorities of parents reported being satisfied with the service that they were questioned about, even when they had reported a history of family violence before or during separation. There was, however, considerable variance in the rates of reported dissatisfaction according to gender, the service used and whether the participant had experienced physical hurt or emotional abuse alone. Fathers were less likely than mothers to be satisfied with their experiences with FDR, FRCs, lawyers and courts, with the widest discrepancy evident in relation to courts (34% of fathers dissatisfied cf. 20% of mothers). Courts were more likely to elicit dissatisfaction responses where parents had reported emotional abuse (34%) than where they had reported physical hurt (24%). Conversely, parents reporting physical violence were more likely to be dissatisfied with FDR (36%) than those reporting emotional abuse alone (30%). Of those who used lawyers, 23% reported physical violence and dissatisfaction and 20% reported emotional abuse and dissatisfaction.
The vast majority of parents agreed that the service that they accessed understood family violence, children's developmental needs, and what provides the best outcome for children. Most parents also agreed that they were treated fairly and with respect by the service they accessed and that the overall quality of the service was high. More specifically, most parents reported that the service that they accessed provided them with helpful advice and effective assistance, although this was slightly higher among mothers than fathers, and higher among parents who had not experienced family violence when compared with parents who had. Most parents reported that the service that they had accessed enabled them to get the help that they needed (68% of mothers; 55% of fathers), but higher proportions of parents who had not experienced family violence reported this to be the case. When asked whether the service they accessed enabled them to make appropriate parenting arrangements, the majority of parents reported that this occurred, with the exception of fathers who had accessed a lawyer (48%) and mothers who had accessed the courts (41%) or a domestic and family violence service (29%).
Most services asked parents about family violence
Approximately three in five parents reported that the service that they accessed asked them about their experiences of family violence, with higher proportions of mothers and parents who had experienced physical violence reporting this to be the case. When experiences with specific services were examined, the majority of parents reported that they were asked about family violence, with the exception of fathers who accessed a lawyer, where just over one in three reported that this occurred. Similar patterns were seen with regard to services asking parents whether they held safety concerns for themselves or their children.
Among all parents who accessed a service, around one in three fathers and almost half of mothers reported that they disclosed family violence and/or safety concerns to the service that they accessed. Disclosure of both of these issues was higher among parents who had experienced physical violence from the other parent at any time (64% disclosed family violence and 60% raised safety concerns). Higher proportions of parents who had experienced physical violence raised either issue, compared with parents who had experienced emotional abuse alone.
Services have some influence on parents' decision making
Approximately two-thirds of the parents who reported accessing a service indicated that the service influenced the decisions that they made about parenting arrangements during negotiations. The most common decision parents made after accessing a service was to agree to a shared-care arrangement (21%), while around 5% of parents decided to oppose shared care after accessing the relevant service. Of note, more than half of the parents who had not experienced family violence before or during separation (54%) indicated that the service made no difference to the decision that they made about parenting arrangements. A higher proportion of parents who had experienced physical violence before or during separation decided to seek more time with their children as a result of accessing the service (15%), compared with parents who had experienced emotional abuse alone (13%) or no family violence (6%).
More generally, one in five parents who experienced physical violence before or during separation decided to take steps to protect themselves and/or their children after accessing the relevant service. Similar patterns emerged among parents who had experienced family violence since separation. Interestingly, one in five parents who reported experiencing physical violence before/during separation reported that accessing the service influenced their decision to agree to shared-care arrangements, and 7% reported that it influenced their decision to oppose it. Some aspects of these findings appear counterintuitive, and the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2014 will support a better understanding of these decision-making patterns. Where parents reported that access to a service made no difference to decisions they made about parenting arrangements, the highest proportion emerged among parents who accessed a lawyer or legal service (52% of mothers; 47% of fathers).
Reforms have positive, negative and unintended consequences
Positive consequences of the family violence reforms nominated in the open-ended answers of each professional participant group included the introduction of the broader definition of family violence and the introduction of s 60CC(2A) as a means of clarifying the priority to be accorded to the "protection from harm" primary consideration when determining parenting orders. Other positive consequences identified included the greater awareness of family violence as an issue among professionals, litigants and the broader community, together with improved understandings of the nature and effects of family violence. Improvements in the identification/screening and assessment of, and response to, family violence by family law professionals, were also nominated as positive consequences by each professional group, together with the increase in focus on protecting children from risks or harm factors.
Negative consequences of the family violence reforms nominated by professional participants included the absence of substantive changes to the levels of understanding or attitudes to family violence or in the responses or court outcomes in cases. More specifically, a lack of change in the interpretation of disclosures of family violence and in the understanding of the nature and detrimental effects of family violence were also identified as negative consequences. Increases in the costs, delays and hostility associated with litigation in parenting cases, together with increases in the complexity of matters and of paperwork were also factors identified in this regard. Other nominated negative consequences related to concerns about the lack of resources to enable prescribed child welfare authorities or courts to adequately respond in cases involving risks or harm factors. In addition, concerns of an evidentiary nature were also raised by some professionals, including arguments that it had become easier to make false, exaggerated or irrelevant allegations, or that there had been an increase in the making of such allegations. Concerns about false allegations are longstanding in the family law system.
Professional participants also described unintended consequences of the family violence reforms as relating to the increase in the workload of courts and prescribed child welfare authorities, an increase in hostility and litigation between parties, and increases in costs, delays and paperwork. Other nominated unintended consequences included the continued downplaying of family violence and concerns about the potential for the family law process to be used by perpetrators to continue their abusive behaviour or to deny their violent behaviour.
Majorities of professionals working in the family law system support the direction of the 2012 family violence reforms. Professionals from a non-legal disciplinary background were most likely to endorse the reforms, but majorities of judicial officers/registrars and lawyers were also positive about the reforms. The wider definitions of family violence and child abuse attracted support from most professionals, as did the clarification in s 60CC(2A) that protection from harm is to be accorded greater weight when relevant than a child's right to meaningful involvement with both parents after separation.
Professionals reported placing greater focus on identifying matters where family violence, child abuse or child safety concerns are relevant, but screening is not applied uniformly and substantial minorities of parents report not being asked and not disclosing concerns about these issues. Practice in screening for and assessing family violence and child abuse requires further refinement. At this stage, there is evidence of limited take-up of the DOORS risk assessment tool in the family law system and some participants held concerns about the implications of its use in legal settings.
a The 2012 family violence reforms also take into account recommendations arising from the Australian and NSW Law Reform Commissions' (2010) report, Family Violence: A National Legal Response, in addition to considering other reports (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. House of Representatives, 2011 p. 1).
b s 60D(2) of the FLA provides that an adviser is: (a) a legal practitioner; or (b) a family counsellor; or (c) a family dispute resolution practitioner; or (d) a family consultant.
c At the time of administering the surveys for this RFV study and writing the RFV report, the amendments to the Federal Circuit Court Rules providing for the Notice of Risk to replace the prescribed Form 4 Notice in matters issued in all Federal Circuit Court registries were yet to come into operation. The Notice of Risk form was effective on a national basis from 12 January 2015. See Federal Circuit Court Amendment (2014 Measures No. 1) Rules 2014 (registered 22 October 2014).