This report sets out the overall findings of the evaluation of the 2012 family violence amendments. The evaluation examined the effects of amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that were intended to improve the family law system’s responses to matters involving family violence and safety concerns.
Most separated parents don’t use family dispute resolution, lawyers or courts to resolve parenting matters after they separate
Those parents who do use family law systems tend to be those affected by complex issues including family violence, mental ill-health, substance abuse and safety concerns for themselves and/or their children
There has been an increased emphasis on identifying families with concerns about family violence and child abuse, however 29% of parents using family law system services reported never being asked about family violence or safety concerns
Family law professionals indicated that better screening tools and approaches are required
The reforms have supported sorting out parenting arrangements by agreement. This is likely to be due to a change in 2012 that means advisors tell parents that parenting arrangements should be in a child’s best interests
Subtle changes in parenting arrangements are evident such as more parents with safety concerns reporting a shift away from overnight stays with fathers
The proportion of children with court orders for shared care, where allegations of both family violence or child safety had been raised, fell after the reforms (from 19% to 11%)
The proportion of court orders for shared care where neither family violence nor child safety was raised remained stable (22%): no significant change showed where only one issue was raised (17% pre-reform, 15% post-reform).
Overall the main findings of the evaluation indicate that the 2012 family violence amendments are a step in the right direction in a reform agenda intended to improve the system’s response to family violence and child abuse concerns in post-separation parenting arrangements.