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Cases involving families where there are allegations of domestic violence constitute a significant part of family court caseloads in Australia. Research undertaken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies showed that allegations of spousal violence occurred in over 51 per cent of litigated cases, with the figure rising to over 70 per cent of cases not judicially determined. These are complex and difficult cases often filled with allegations and counter-allegations. A critical piece of evidence often obtained in these cases is a family assessment report (a ‘family report’), which is prepared by a family consultant, usually a social worker or psychologist. A recent evaluation showed that family reports are increasingly being obtained in cases involving allegations of domestic violence or abuse, with a rise from one-third in the pre-reform cases reviewed to just over half post-reform. This suggests that family report writers have a critical role to play in how the family law system deals with allegations of domestic violence in parenting cases. However, Australian research in this area is currently limited. In this article, we report findings from a focus group study that formed part of an Australian pilot research project exploring family report writer practice in contexts of domestic violence.
This document has been peer reviewed.