“It’s Like Standing on a Beach, Holding Your Children’s Hands, and Having a Tsunami Just Coming Towards You”: Intimate Partner Violence and “Expert” Assessments in Australian Family Law

Zoe Rathus, Samantha Jeffries, Helena Menih, Rachael M Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The ways in which postseparation parenting disputes are managed
has undergone significant change in Australia since the Family Law
Act (Cth) was first enacted in 1975. The best interests of children have
always been paramount in children’s cases and over the last 20 years,
this concept has been legislatively shaped to include ongoing beneficial
post separation parental relationships and protection from
harm. A critical piece of evidence to inform a Family Court’s decision
making in such matters is a family report, which is an expert assessment
compiled by a social science professional. The authors report
findings from an Australian based qualitative study exploring the
experiences of family report assessment practice from the perspective
of victim mothers who have separated from men who perpetrate
intimate partner violence. The authors conclude that reforms are
necessary to improve the practice and procedure of family report
writing in Australia. Such reforms should ensure that the lived experience
of victims of intimate partner violence is validated, assessment
processes have victim efficacy, and the outcomes of such reports do
not put women and their children at ongoing risk of harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-440
Number of pages33
JournalVictims and Offenders
Issue number4
Early online date14 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2019


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