Increased relationship services are mainly responsible for why separated families in Australia are living with less parental conflict, an Australian National University (ANU) study has found.
cut divorce conflict
Changes to Australia’s family law in 2006 encouraged a shift towards shared-time, or tag-team, parenting, where a child spends equal or near-equal time with each parent as a solution to separated families.
However, Associate Professor at the ANU, Bruce Smyth said new data, compiled from a random sample of separated parents from across Australia, suggested this was not the major contributor.
“Surprisingly, we found that since the family law changes, the prevalence of shared-time parenting in Australia has plateaued at about 15 per cent,” Professor Smyth said
“The Government commitment in 2006 to fund and support mediation services is likely to have been the cause of this parental shift, especially among high-conflict families.”
He said the introduction of family relationship centres seemed to have offered new opportunities for courts and community-based services to work constructively together for the good of the children of separation and divorce.
“A cultural shift for the better appears to have occurred, moving away from lawyers and the courts as a default starting position for many separated parents, and towards the use of community-based family relationship support services,” Professor Smyth said.
The research had found that equal-time arrangements were ordered by judges in less than 10 per cent of Family Court cases in the past five years.
Joint author of the report, Bryan Rodgers said shared-time arrangements could work well for some families, but badly for others.
“Rigid arrangements between warring shared-time parents are likely to have a negative impact on children,” Professor Rodgers said.
“So, the expansion of family support services, allowing families access to good information, is likely to have helped steer some entrenched high-conflict families away from shared-time arrangements.”
Professors Smyth and Rodgers are researchers at the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute at the ANU. They were part of a team of four researchers who compiled the study.
Professor Smyth delivered the findings of this Australian Research Council funded study at the Australian Social Policy Conference in Sydney.
Edition 380, 24 September 2013