Summary of the report

Our Report is in four main sections:

Part 1: The problem

 We identify the specific issues and statistics which need to be addressed:

  1. the harms done to the children and families who use the service
  2. high and rising costs both to the public purse and to the individual parent

Part 2: ‘Analysis’

We identify the three broad sets of reasons why these problems have developed:

  1. a vicious cycle of perverse incentives which drive the process in the opposite direction to the one intended.
  2. a lack of standardised practice, combined with an approach which is unnecessarily adversarial,  creates delays,  drives up costs and damages children
  3. a lack of systematic research into the effectiveness of outcomes so that the system cannot learn and improve

Part 3: Lessons from pilots, trials and other jurisdictions

We look at the lessons learnt from past attempts to improve the system and also more successful examples in other jurisdiction.

  1. Less adversarial approaches: successes and failures
  2. Presumption of shared care: outcomes for children

 Part 4: Proposals: 

These are built not only on the analysis in Pt 2, but also on the experience of other jurisdictions in Pt 3.

In Part 2 we saw that the current system includes a vicious cycle which rewards the person with majority or sole care for not making an agreement. We want a system with a virtuous cycle which rewards parents for reaching an agreement and sticking to it.

To achieve this we suggest:

  1. Significant reduction in perverse incentives to go to court
  2. Inclusion of incentives to form and stick to an agreement
  3. A less adversarial, rules-based process with a presumption of shared-care and the maintenance of contact (when safe)
  4. Improved enforcement of Orders
  5. Independent assessment and research to guide improvement

These changes could also a step towards a more gender-neutral approach.  The existing perverse incentives act mostly against the non-resident parent.  As this is most commonly the father, it creates the perception of bias reported in Part 1.