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Behind closed doors

Behind closed doors

Behind closed doors

Behind Closed Doors: Family dispute resolution and family violence.

Behind Closed Doors: Family Dispute Resolution and Family Violence. Discussion Paper 6, 2007


‘the effects of the abuse….I didn’t realise that the mediation session would tap into the ongoing issue about having feelings about having no rights, no identity, no status, being undeserving, needing to be punished for leaving the marriage…to ask for anything is very dangerous’ 

(DVIRC Interview, Kate).

Under the new family law system in Australia it is compulsory for separating parents to attempt family dispute resolution (FDR) prior to taking their parenting dispute to court. Although there is an exception for family violence cases, many women who have experienced such violence will undertake FDR either because the violence is not detected or because it is not seen to impact on their capacity to participate. Some women who have experienced family violence may choose to engage in FDR given the limited alternatives available in the family law system.

DVRCV and other services are concerned about the impact of the new system on victims of family violence. In this Discussion Paper, DVRCV outlines these concerns, including the potential for the emphasis on FDR to push family violence further ‘behind closed doors’ to be dealt with in the private arena of FDR.

Taking a pragmatic approach to these issues at a practice level, the paper then attempts to address the following questions: How can FDR services effectively identify and respond to victims of family violence? Under what conditions should services proceed with providing FDR to separating couples when family violence has been identified?

A range of complex practice dilemmas and issues are discussed, including:

  • the pros and cons of using FDR
  • the risks with using FDR in family violence cases
  • ways in which FDR services can identify and respond to family violence
  • issues in screening and risk assessment for family violence
  • the potential benefits of specialised FDR formats (such as shuttle mediation or co-mediation) for family violence clients
  • recommendations for policy and practice in this area.

This Discussion Paper is now out of print.  Download your free copy below.