This Commentary provides a brief overview of the search for alternatives to the adversarial legal system for separating parents in the United States as a context for understanding the vision and importance of the Australian legislation, and then turns to a consideration of six critical aspects of the 2006 Family Relationship Centres legislation that were essential to ensuring success from the outset.
Key Points for the Family Court Community and Policy-makers
- Bold and innovative family law reform in Australia created a new alternative pathway of community-based, non-adversarial services for separating parents with parenting disputes.
- Family Relationship Centers, the centerpiece of the 2006 reforms, provide a first point of entry with a highly integrated matrix of information, referral, and service options, complemented by national advice and legal information resources for parents.
- Evaluation of the objectives of the reform legislation indicated a 32% reduction in filings with the Family Court of Australia over five years, increased use of the Family Relationship Centers, reduced use of lawyers for parenting disputes, and significant reduction in costs to the Government for services.
- This structure and success of this early intervention service model should be of considerable interest to policy-makers in other countries.