Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK
- promoting responsible shared parenting after separation and divorce -
Australia acts to enforce parenting orders
The Family Law Amendment Bill 1999, which enforces parenting orders, began its passage through the Australian Parliament on 21 September 1999.
The full text of the Bill can be found on the internet at: http://www.aph.gov.au/parlinfo/billsnet/99180b01.doc
As expected, the Bill lays down a range of measures to promote the exercise of parental responsibility. These are called a 'parenting compliance regime' and comprise: preventative measures, remedies, and eventual mandatory punitive action. It is also interesting to note that the term 'parenting' is used in place of 'contact' - in recognition of the continuing roles and responsibilities of both parents after divorce.
Stage 1: Preventative measures
These are designed to improve communication between separated parents and to educate them about their respective responsibilities in relation to their children.
The bill requires that when a parenting plan is drawn up or the court makes an order, steps are taken to ensure that the parents understand:
Further, when an order is made, there must be an explanation of the availability and use of 'location' and 'recovery' orders to ensure that parenting orders are complied with.
- the obligations that it creates
- the assistance that is available to parents experiencing difficulties in complying
- the consequences that may follow if either parent fails to comply
Stage 2: Remedial measures
These are designed to enable parents to resolve issues of conflict about parenting and to help in the negotiation of improved parenting.
If a court is satisfied that a person has, without reasonable excuse, contravened an order; it may do either or both of the following:
If a person who has been ordered to participate in a post-separation parenting program has not participated, or is not participating or fully participating in the program, the court may give further directions about the person's participation in the program.
- make an order that the person is to participate in a specified post-separation parenting program
- make an order compensating for contact forgone as a result of the contravention
Stage 3: Punitive measures
These are designed to ensure that, as a last resort, a parent is punished for deliberate disregard of an order made by a court.
If the Stage 2 Remedial Measures fail to ensure that the court orders are being complied with, then the court must take punitive action. Subject to certain constraints the court must make an order imposing one or more of the following sanctions:
- a community service order
- an order requiring the person to enter into a bond
- an order varying the order contravened
- a fine
Sting in the tail
The sting in the tail is that maintenance orders are to be enforced by bond, fine or imprisonment. Worse still, while a person is serving a prison sentence they remain liable to pay maintenance for the whole period spent in prison. Presumably the hope is that such draconian action will rarely be needed once the courts begin to enforce contact orders.
Last updated - 26 November 1999
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