Michael Pelly | November 02, 2009
FAMILY Court judges are not getting enough information to make a proper assessment about the risk of violence in divorce proceedings, judge Diana Bryant says.
However, Chief Justice Bryant says it is a "cop-out" for people to say they do not raise violence issues in the belief nothing will happen - or that it will work against them.
It has been a difficult year for the court, with the death of three-year-old Darcey Freeman in January leading to criticism that it is not attuned to the risk of violent parents.
There has also been criticism of the shared parenting laws, which require the court to presume a child's best interests are served by a continuing relationship with both parents.
The Chief Justice said those who shift blame to the Family Court for their troubles should instead look to the litigants when things go wrong.
"We get the cases where no one is going to be particularly happy," she said. "In children's cases, mostly they have got substance-abuse issues, mental-health issues, family violence - significant family violence or child-abuse issues.
"I don't think that things are caused by decisions. I think people's personalities and motivations drive them in the end."
She said violence cases were the most difficult in family law.
"They are all about risk assessment," she said.
Six inquiries into the shared-parenting laws are under way, with former Family Court judge Richard Chisholm likely to report to the government first.
Chief Justice Bryant said she had had "informal discussions" with Professor Chisholm.
"One of the things he has said to us ... is that many people say 'we don't raise these allegations because we don't think anything will happen'.
"But the judges say they do raise them. They are in every affidavit." She described it as "a circular argument which gets you nowhere". "If you don't raise it, you are never going to find out what the result's going to be and so I don't accept that argument," Chief Justice Bryant said.
"I hear it but I think it's a cop-out. If you don't raise it, then you can't expect an outcome."