Families with complex needs

Families with complex needs

Many families seeking to resolve their parenting disputes have complex needs, including needs related to emotional, sexual and physical abuse and family violence. 

The Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC requested that the Family Law Council report to him on five matters in relation to the needs of these families. 

Our submissions

In our first submission in April 2015, we made recommendations to the Family Law Council to improve the justice system for families with complex needs across the family law, child protection and family violence jurisdictions. The submission focused on children in those families:

  • to promote the 'one court principle' that identifies the appropriate forum early in court proceedings for families who present with complex issues
  • to deliver information sharing arrangements between the relevant courts and state child protection authorities.

Read Families with complex needs – Submission to the Family Law Council's terms of reference: number 1 (doc, 353.5 KB).

In October 2015 we made our second submission, which focused on children in those families:

  • to promote the ongoing assessment and response to risk as a family progresses through court
  • to improve coordination with non-legal service providers to assist parties seeking to address the underlying issues that impact on a child’s safety.

Read Families with complex needs – Submission to the Family Law Council’s terms of reference: number 2 (docx, 216.03 KB).


The Family Law Council released an interim report in 2015 and a final report in 2016. Read both reports

Next steps – addressing traumatic direct cross-examination

In July 2017 the Attorney-General’s Department released an exposure draft Bill and consultation paper addressing the problem of re-traumatisation of family violence survivors forced to directly question and be questioned by family violence perpetrators in the family law courts. In our response to the consultation paper, we support the piloting of a Counsel Assisting model as recommended by the Family Law Council. We also suggest that measures to address direct cross-examination would be more workable if family law courts made earlier findings of fact about family violence. 

Read our Submission on the Exposure draft – Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2017 (docx, 341.8 KB)

More information

For more information about our research of family law clients read our Key findings on families with complex needs (doc, 299.5 KB).

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