Evaluation of the 2012 Family Law Act Family Violence Amendments
This article discuss the results of an evaluation of the 2012 amendments to the Family Law Act which were designed to improve responses to family violence and child abuse. While the evaluation findings suggest that the changes implemented are a “step in the right direction”, the question remains whether the family law community is doing enough to protect those most vulnerable.
In 2012, significant amendments were made to the Family Law Act with a view to improving both the identification of family violence and the family law system’s response (including screening practices) to family violence and child safety concerns in parenting matters.
Some two years following the implementation of the amendments, an evaluation commissioned by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department has been undertaken and the results indicate that the family violence amendments have influenced a positive shift towards more scrutiny of parenting arrangements. The evaluation was conducted based on data gathered from 12,198 separated parents; a study examining the views of 653 family law professionals; and analysis of 1,892 Family Law Court files.
The findings of the evaluation are contained in three reports, shortly to be released to the public:
In a recently released statement, Dr Rae Kaspiew, a senior research fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies has said that:
Of significant interest (particularly to those parties contemplating the institution of proceedings or already in the Court queue awaiting determination of their matter) of cases were litigated and determined by a Judge, orders for shared parental responsibility in cases involving violence or allegations of violence have decreased from 51% to 40%, and that orders for supervised time with a parent remained stable and were rare. The making of orders for no face‑to‑face time between parents and children remains a rare outcome.
The need for improvement in practice was evident in the finding that after the reforms, three in ten separated parents interviewed said they had “never been asked” about family violence or safety concerns when using dispute resolution that lawyers and courts used to resolve parenting matters. Perhaps not surprisingly the findings suggest a need for a sharper focus on family violence, child abuse and other factors that may suggest risk, such as substance misuse or mental health issues.
The research highlights reservations among professionals within the family law system about the capacity of the system to adequately deal with cases involving family violence or child abuse concerns. Professionals are worried about the burden on child protection agencies and delays for the children involved.
The research also demonstrates that:
To read a more detailed summary of the evaluation, click here.
For more information or discussion, please contact HopgoodGanim Lawyers' Family Law team.