The current regime for responding to breaches of family law parenting orders is contained in div 13A of pt VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). This is the second report from an ANROWS project examining compliance with and enforcement of family law parenting orders under the Act. Prior to this research, there was no current empirical evidence on how the contravention scheme was operating in Australia.

This mixed-method project was designed to examine the drivers of non-compliance with parenting orders and the operation of the parenting order enforcement regime in Australia. This report sets out insights from three parts of a four-part research program, with the first part – which summarises the views of legal professionals and judicial officers – published in an earlier report. This report sets out findings from contravention matter court file analysis, an online survey of separated parents with parenting orders, and an analysis of international approaches, and synthesises findings from all four parts of the research.

Professionals, parents and carers all articulated the need for a well-resourced family law system – including support services designed to address the issues underlying non-compliance – to support compliance with parenting orders. At a broad level, the evidence reflects a conceptual tension at the heart of the contravention regime between, on the one hand, the aims of legal enforcement mechanisms focused on deterrence and, on the other, the aims of decision-making informed by the best interests of children.

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Research report 20/2022