Over the past 10 years, the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has conducted multiple large-scale studies of post-separation parenting outcomes, including surveys involving nationally representative samples of separated parents.
Two multi-method studies (Kaspiew et al., 2009, 2015b) evaluated:
- the situation before and after the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act 1975
- the situation before and after the 2012 amendments to the Family Law Act 1975
- About 3% of separated parents use courts as their main pathway to making parenting arrangements (based on a sample of about 6000 separated parents about 18 months after separation). These are predominantly families affected by family violence, child safety concerns and other complex issues.
- Most (97%) separated parents do not go to court to decide their parenting arrangements, although 16% use family dispute resolution services or lawyers.
- A study based on court files shows that in both court and non-court ordered arrangements, it is most common for children to spend the majority of their time with their mother and to see their father regularly.
- In the small proportion of cases determined by a judge, 45% of court orders provide for sole parental responsibility by the mother, and 11% for sole parental responsibility by the father.
- Orders for no contact with one parent are rare: 3% of all court orders.