Preparing for family dispute resolution in regional Australia: exploring the experiences of parents, family dispute resolution practitioners and lawyers

Emonson, Rhonda Maree (2019) Preparing for family dispute resolution in regional Australia: exploring the experiences of parents, family dispute resolution practitioners and lawyers. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Family dispute resolution (FDR) assists in keeping parenting conflicts out of court and gives parents the opportunity to negotiate freely and to make choices about post-separation arrangements for their children. Many parents can reach agreements amicably. However, those who use the family law system may be experiencing family violence, mental health issues or substance abuse and may, therefore, require additional assessment and support to effectively prepare for FDR.

This research project had three objectives: first, to understand the current process from the perspectives of parents, practitioners and lawyers; second, to explore what (if any) aspect of the process is difficult for parents; and third, to explore how well parents are prepared for FDR from the perspectives of parents, practitioners and lawyers.

The study adopted a qualitative methodology from an interpretivist phenomenological perspective. Using in-depth interviews, data were collected from three regional locations in New South Wales (Location 1), Queensland (Location 2) and Victoria (Location 3). I conducted 52 purposeful interviews with parents and practitioners engaged in FDR at Family Relationship Centres and lawyers, either in private practice or community legal services, with an interest in FDR.

As a result of the study, I identified three main findings. The first highlights the additional assistance required by parents, practitioners and lawyers in preparing parents adequately for FDR. This additional assistance particularly relates to establishing realistic expectations about outcomes, understanding the purpose of education sessions, increasing the availability of legal advice for parents and supporting the psychosocial needs of parents. The second finding reveals the unrecognised aspects of preparing parents for FDR, including the management of psychological distress, the inclusion of legal advice, the management of family violence and lengthy suspensions on waiting lists. The third finding highlights the divergent and disjointed perspectives among parents, practitioners and lawyers of the preparation of parents for FDR. However, practitioners and lawyers both agreed that a percentage of parents face significant challenges in being adequately prepared and that the amount of time parents are suspended on waiting lists should be addressed. While practitioners recommend the provision of conflict coaching, counseling and child-inclusive practice to effectively prepare parents, lawyers recommend the inclusion of legal advice. The legitimacy of screening for psychological distress and the ability to refer parents for intervention in a timely manner to effectively prepare them for FDR is a key recommendation from this research.

Item ID: 61606
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: family dispute resolution; family relationship centre; family law; best interests of the child; parenting conflicts; phenomenological approach
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Rhonda Maree Emonson.
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2020 23:23
FoR Codes: 18 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 1801 Law > 180113 Family Law @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940112 Families and Family Services @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies @ 50%
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