opinion

Custody arrangements at risk of being used to perpetrate family violence.

New research shows legal processes around separation and divorce are being used by domestic violence perpetrators as a means to continue to abuse their victims.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently released an evaluation of the Family Law Court system.

The evaluation confirmed evidence that shows families who are involved in the system often have complex issues which are not suited to a ‘one style fits all’ approach to mediation and conflict resolution and can result in victims being left in incredibly vulnerable positions while trying to abide by custody arrangements and court orders.

Commenting on the evaluation, Dr Silke Meyer, a senior lecturer at Central Queensland University, says that she believes Family Law Court services are crucial, “to avoid domestic and family violence victims being pushed into parenting agreements that allow abusive and controlling partners to continue their behaviour and have ongoing detrimental effects on victims and children’s safety and well-being.”

She says child contact/visitation rights are often used by the perpetrating parent to continuously exercise power and control over the victim.

"Almost one third of parents reported never having been asked whether domestic and family violence was a concern in their separation." Image via istock
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"Despite an increased emphasis on identifying domestic and family violence in Family Law Court proceedings since the 2012 reforms, almost one third of parents reported never having been asked whether domestic and family violence was a concern in their separation," Dr Meyer says.

Meanwhile, The Saturday Paper, has reported on the efforts that men's rights activists are making to have family law provisions changed to push the law more in favour of fathers of children.

Nijole Cork writes that in a report presented to a number of Senators and Federal MPs, groups like the Lone Fathers Association and Dads in Distress, it's claimed that mothers are using false claims of domestic violence to "shut husband's out of family life."

However, Cork, writes, 'Terese Edwards, of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, said: “We are deeply concerned about any challenge to the principle that the courts must ‘prioritise safety over contact’. Child safety should always be granted primacy. We do not want to see any resurrection of the ‘unfriendly parent provisions’. This stopped women from reporting violence.”'

Dr Meyers agrees. "Family Law Court proceedings are overwhelming at the best of times but when combined with the trauma and intimidation associated with separating from an abusive partner it can leave victims in particularly vulnerable positions.

"This can have significant implications for victims and children's long-term safety and well-being."

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