Compliance with and Enforcement of Family Law Parenting Orders

Content type

Family law and family separation

About the survey

This project will research how parenting orders from the family law courts work in practice. As well as looking at whether parents comply with parenting orders, this research will examine how the enforcement regime operates and how well the legal options for responding to non-compliance with parenting orders work.

Parenting orders are made by courts either when parents agree on a set of arrangements or a judge makes a decision. They deal with a range of issues, most commonly how parental responsibility will be exercised and how much time a child will spend with each parent. (For more information see Parenting orders – what you need to know.)

Only a minority of separating families use the courts to make parenting orders, and these families are often affected by complex dynamics, including family violence and safety concerns. There is concern that these complex cases create challenges for the current approach to enforcement in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

This research has been commissioned by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS).

The survey period is now closed.

Thank you to all those who participated in the Survey of Parents and Carers with Family Law Parenting Orders, and the Survey of Family Law Professionals. We appreciate the time you took to share your experiences. Your contributions will help us understand how parenting orders from the family law courts work in practice, the things that help or hinder compliance, how the enforcement process in the Family Law Act operates, and how well it works.

The final research report and any accompanying publications will be available on the ANROWS and AIFS websites.

The research

The research will generate empirical evidence about the following:

  • whether parents follow parenting orders
  • the factors associated with non-compliance with parenting orders
  • the features of cases that go to court when non-compliance occurs
  • patterns in court outcomes for these cases
  • whether penalties are effective at reducing non-compliance and whether, when there are concerns about family violence, they deter contraventions or inhibit parties in seeking court protection.

Research methods

Subject to the relevant ethics and other clearances, the research will use the following methods:

  1. Contravention matter court file analysis:  
    The collection and analysis of data from a sample of court files involving contravention applications in selected registries of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
  2. Online survey of separated parents with parenting orders:  
    The collection and analysis of data about parents’ views and experiences through an online survey of separated parents who have obtained parenting orders (either by judicial determination or by consent) in the past five years.
  3. Online survey of professionals and interviews with judicial officers:  
    The collection and analysis of data from the range of family law system professionals to assess the influence of professional practices, and systemic and legislative factors that influence the operation of the enforcement regime.
  4. Analysis of international approaches:  
    A desktop review of enforcement approaches in three international jurisdictions to consider the legislative and systemic approaches to enforcement and how professional practices do or do not support effective implementation of these approaches.

Getting help

Family law advice

AIFS is unable to provide advice or to assist with specific concerns in relation to individual family law matters. There is a range of information and advice available at the Family Relationships website.

You can also contact the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321 for information and referrals. If you have a lawyer, you may also wish to discuss your family law matter with them.

Personal safety

Call 000 at any time if you are worried about your safety, or the safety of another person or a child.

If you are experiencing domestic and family violence, or you need advice or support about domestic and family violence, please contact the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service (1800 Respect) on 1800 737 732 for 24/7 advice and support.

If you need some extra support or advice about issues in your life, Lifeline provides general and crisis telephone counselling. Call 13 11 14.


Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) is a not-for-profit independent national research organisation.

ANROWS is an initiative of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

ANROWS is the only such research organisation in Australia.