The Australian Family Law Reform Act 1995 enshrines the vision of continuing parental responsibility and involvement in post-divorce families. However, for many separated
couples, the concept of cooperative, let alone joint, parenting is not only overwhelming but is often rejected outright as an impossible suggestion.
An innovative cooperative parenting education and support initiative being piloted by Anglicare in Perth in Western Australia is one of three pilot programmes being conducted in Australia under the Federal Attorney General’s Department
Contact Orders Pilot initiative.
The aim of the pilots is to reduce the number of parents (usually non-resident) using Family Court processes to resolve breaches of ‘Contact Orders’. Although this litigious group represents
only a small percentage of the cases before the Family Court, they consume disproportionate amounts of Court time and resources, often without any durable long-term resolution. The resulting instability often has deleterious effects on the
children of the relationship.
This project was conceived as a way of:
- supporting separated parents by teaching them communication and relationship-management skills,
- facilitating and encouraging a cooperative post-separation parenting relationship with a former partner, and
- reducing the reliance on the Family Court (of Western Australia) to resolve disputes concerning Contact Orders.
In the context of the Anglicare programme, the term ‘cooperative parenting’ is used rather than ‘co-parenting’ – this latter term can be interpreted as either ‘joint parenting’ or ‘parenting with a degree of agreement’. We
are seeking to encourage the parents to work together in a cooperative manner in the best interests of their children. By encouraging parents to seek their own resolution to parenting issues, this programme is also seeking vicarious long-term
stable outcomes for their children.
The Anglicare Programme
The programme was conceptualised as a series of progressively interconnected units, with participants moving through them at differing rates depending on their post-separation adjustment. The five components of the programme are:
- a three-hour general-information forum,
This is an edited extract of a paper first produced at the 7th Annual Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference, Sydney, July 2000.
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