A New Approach to the Family Law System
On 10 November 2004 the Australian Government released a discussion paper seeking input from the community into the implementation of wide-ranging reforms to the family law system.
The reforms follow the report of the parliamentary inquiry into child custody arrangements in the event of family separation: ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ and include the establishment of a new network of 65 community-based Family Relationship Centres which will help parents reach agreement on parenting arrangements after separation.
The discussion paper A New Approach to the Family Law System is available here
It looks like the Australians are way ahead of us. This paper looks very promising, however there are a few aspects that concern me:
Like the Job Network, the Family Relationship Centres will be run by community-based organisations.
How do you prevent feminist capture of such community organisations? Will there be adequate national protocols, monitoring, data collection etc? A complaints / appeal process?
People who have been the victims of violence should not be required to have contact with the perpetrator of that violence.
This is the major fish-hook in my opinion. If, like in NZ, a women becomes a victim of violence by making an unsubstantiated accusation then the whole intent of the new approach will be undermined.
An important role of the Family Relationship Centres will be to identify cases involving family violence or child abuse issues.
I think there is a fundimental conflict between a social support role and a forensic investigator role as described here.
As parents can be reluctant to disclose such issues, the parenting advisers will need to be trained to ensure they have skills in identifying them.
Exactly what are these “skills”? What evidence is available to demonstrate such alleged skills are effective and safe? Who will do the training?
For these reasons, the presumption would be against equal shared parental responsibility where there is evidence of violence, child abuse or entrenched conflict.
I think it will be vital that evidence in this situation is of a “beyond reasonable doubt” standard, and that where there is entrenched conflict the person with the best track record of co-operation gets the primary care.