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Editors --- "A Report on Child Custody" [2004] AdminRw 27; (2004) 56 Admin Review 75

A report on child custody

On 29 December 2003 the House of Representative Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs tabled Every Picture Tells a Story: report on the inquiry into child custody arrangements in the event of family separation. Among the Committee’s recommended changes to the family law system is the creation of a Families Tribunal, with powers relating to parenting responsibility and arrangements and, by agreement of the parents, property matters. The Committee recommended that members of the Tribunal be appointed from professionals practising in the family relationships area. Conciliation and non-adversarial processes would be a feature of Tribunal procedure. Hearings would be conducted by a panel of three members, each with distinct qualifications—a mediator, a child psychologist or other professional able to represent the child’s perspective, and a legally qualified person. Legal representation would not be permitted, but the Tribunal would be able to appoint legal counsel and other experts to assist it as required.

The role of courts in parenting disputes would be limited to hearing particularly serious cases (such as those involving violence or child abuse), enforcement of Tribunal orders, and review of Tribunal decisions on limited grounds.

The Committee also proposed creation of a single entry point to the family law system—distinct from the Tribunal but with close administrative and operational links to it. The entry point would provide access to a full range of dispute-resolution options.

At the time of Admin Review’s publication the Government had not yet formally responded to the report.

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