Child abuse and the family court


Australia’s Family Court has a strong tradition of innovation in its handling of family matters, but family law is a federal issue; child protection is a State issue. Is the Family Court equipped to manage those cases that come before it where child abuse allegations have been made?

This Trends and Issues paper looks at the problems surrounding this particular issue and reports on a recent research study which found that these families have many difficulties, including a history of family violence. The study challenges the community belief that false allegations of child abuse are more common in Family Court cases than in other situations. However, the research found that despite the fact that child abuse was severe in 70 percent of the cases where family breakdown involved child abuse allegations, the families were not generally known to State child protection services.

The proposals to better manage child abuse allegations in residence and contact cases coming before the Family Court which are canvassed here need careful consideration by all agencies and governments concerned.

This paper is taken from the report of research undertaken with the assistance of a grant from the Criminology Research Council.

Criminology Research Council grant no. 27/91