The intersection of family violence and family dispute resolution: Implications for practice

Family Law
Friday 27 July, 0930 – 0950


Judge Joe Harman
Federal Circuit Court of Australia

Since the June 2012 amendments to the Family Law Act 1975, there has been an increased focus on and prioritisation of family violence as a factor of importance in the determination of parenting disputes. With an increased awareness of the impact of family violence has come a focus on courts having access to information regarding family violence so as to facilitate better protection of those who have experienced family violence. This has led some to question the efficacy of the protection of confidentiality in Family Dispute Resolution (FDR).

This paper will consider a substantial body of data from cases before the Federal Circuit Court, identifying the services that parties to parenting proceedings involving allegations of family violence have engaged with prior to coming before the Court. This includes engagement with services such as FDR, counselling and psychological services, medical services, the police, local courts and child welfare agencies.

By considering prior engagement with services which are not subject to evidential exceptions and from which information relevant to allegations of family violence can be obtained, some insight might be gained into the extent to which available means of evidence gathering are presently used. Further, a consideration of engagement with services by those who allege family violence might assist in a better understanding of both the nature of parenting disputes involving allegations of family violence as well as the efficacy of FDR intake and assessment processes.