Introducing Screen Assessment

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 IntroducIng screenIng and rIsk assessment for famIly vIolence to famIly law proceedIngs On 1 July 2006 major reforms were introduced to Australian family law by the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006. The legislation carries with it strong messages about shared parenting after separation. A key feature is the shift towards consideration of ‘equal time’ or ‘substantial and significant time’ for both parents, where shared parental responsibility is considered (Family Law Act 1975 section 65 DAA). The changes also carry an emphasis on dispute resolution between separating parties before or instead of attending court in family law cases. While many see this shift as positive, it has caused…show more content…
Embedding screening and risk assessment processes in family law proceedings is a way to highlight the existence or threat of violence at a time when victims are particularly vulnerable. Professionals within the family law system can then take steps to try to ensure their clients’ safety and ultimately achieve safe outcomes from such proceedings. This paper explores how screening and risk assessment for family violence could be applied to family law proceedings to provide support, assistance and protection for victims, as well as appropriate sanctions and treatment for perpetrators. This paper reviews literature and research on screening and risk assessment where these practices have been used in health and criminal justice settings to identify and address…show more content…
More disturbingly, a study carried out in New Jersey found that women who informed mediators that they were victims of domestic violence received less favourable custody awards (Saccuzzo & Johnson 2004). Issues regarding the practice of mediation of family law disputes, where family violence is a factor, are expanded in the latter section of this paper. Equal shared parental responsibility Legislation reforms emphasise equal shared parental responsibility when making parenting orders. It means that where shared parental responsibility is considered, the Family Court will first give consideration to parents’ spending equal time with children and where that is not granted, next give consideration to ‘substantial and significant’ shared time arrangements. On paper the legislation has safeguards for the protection of children (and women) by excluding this provision in cases of family violence. However, how the legislation is implemented is critical. The emphasis on shared parenting and greater direction of judges’ discretion requiring consideration of equal or substantial and significant time has the potential to put women and children at risk of continuing contact with abusive

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