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Entries in Australia (2)


Learning from the Australian shared parenting experience

Professor Patrick Parkinson spoke at a recent meeting of the International Family Law Group in London about the impact of shared parenting legislation in Australia.

His paper contradicted some of the pessimistic views in the recent Nuffield Institute research review which concluded that shared parenting legislation is not in the interests of children.

The paper reviews the background to the Australian-reforms and what the Australian government - with bipartisan political support - tried to achieve; and corrects the record in terms of what the research actually shows about post-separation parenting arrangements in Australia after 2006.

He also considers what might be beneficial amendments to the English Children Act 1989 in the light of the Australian experience.

The paper argues that although there should not be any legislative presumption that children should spend equal or near equal time with both parents, there is an advantage to the inclusion in legislation of principles that can help guide the settlement of cases.


Shared parenting legislation: lessons from Australia

Comment following publication of the Government response to the Family Justice Review included a Woman's Hour interview with Professor Lisa Young of Murdoch University in Perth Australia (1:04 - 9:44). 

She described how the 2006 Australian legislation, while retaining the best interests of the child as the main consideration, also introduced a process for judges to determine best interests, and a presumption that major decisions should be made jointly.

The Act says that you have to look at 50:50 care arrangements first, which has led to the wrong assumption that shared care must always be 50:50.

Professor Young commented that the compulsory mediation at Family Dispute Resolution Centres has led to a 22% reduction in cases going to court and can be counted as a very successful aspect of the Australian system. 

When asked what she would recommend from the Australian system, she emphasised properly funded mediation and clearly drafted legislation that avoided misunderstandings about the meaning of shared parenting.  In her view, successful shared parenting is not a function of amounts of time spent with each parent, it is the quality of that time that counts.