Call for integration in family law system
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Author: by Linda Hein, UniSA News
Dr McInnes (pictured) spoke of the system failures that resulted in recent deaths of several children and called for a widespread overhaul of the State and Federal communication pathways to improve family law decision making at the Shared parental responsibility in Australian family law and the impact on children seminar hosted by UniSA last month.
Dr McInnes said that the 2006 changes to the Family Law Act toward shared parental responsibility were based on the ideal examples of separated families and left children of abusive parents at the mercy of a flawed decision making system.
"Children who are victims of violence and abuse face greatly increased risks of continuing exposure to abuse when they are required to share care with an abusing parent," she said.
"The issue lies in the lack of adequate communication between the agencies and how that information finds its way into a child contact hearing, how the family court takes account of the information and accepts it."
Dr McInnes said that according to recent data 27,000 children were affected by parental mental illness and that in a separation context, child protection, police and domestic violence reports needed to be part of the evidence available to decision-makers in the family law system.
Dr McInnes' paper on "Shared Parental Responsibility in Australia's Family Law System and Mental Health" was recently presented at the Altering States Creating Futures conference of the Queensland Mental Health Alliance and her latest research on the attitudes of separated resident mothers to father-child contact has been published in the Journal of Australian Family Law.
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