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Catholic Welfare says family breakdown more than a legal problem

Catholic Welfare Australia has welcomed the release of the Federal Government's Discussion Paper that recommends compelling couples to visit a government "separation centre" for counselling in preparation for their legal separation.

A New Approach to the Family Law System: Implementation of Reforms made public yesterday by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson.

The report in The Australian today says that a trial of 15 such relationship centres is expected to begin next year. Attendance will be compulsory for couples seeking access to the Family Court. It says Centrelink and child support agencies will refer separating couples to the centres as part of a push to encourage people facing relationship difficulties to avoid litigation.

Mr Ruddock confirmed lawyers would not be allowed to participate in the process, and counsellors at the family relationship centres would instead help couples develop a "parenting plan".

Catholic Welfare Australia is one of three Industry Representative Bodies providing services to families with the assistance of funding provided by the Department of Family and Community Services within the Family Relationships Services Program.

"As a national network, Catholic Welfare Australia has been providing services to families for over 60 years and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the national debate around the future of the Family Law System in this country," said Catholic Welfare Australia Executive Director Frank Quinlan.

"There are two strong themes that seem to underpin this discussion paper that reflect the experience of our agencies," he said. "The first is that the breakdown of the family unit has ramifications far beyond legal issues and should not be treated as simply a legal problem."

"Families need access to a whole range of support services. The second is that family breakdown has an impact on the lives of not only the couple involved but also the children, the grandparents and the extended family network, all of whom require support.

"Catholic Welfare Australia has already drawn together some of its key providers of Family Relationship Services to explore the issues raised by the discussion paper and we look forward to making a submission to Government on issues of concern to separating families across Australia," he concluded.

Changes to Family Law are necessary (Catholic Welfare Australia 10/11/04)
Want a divorce? You'll have to talk before you walk, Ruddock rules (The Australian 11/11/04)

A New Approach to the Family Law System - Implementation of reforms - Australian Government Discussion Paper (10 November 2004)
Catholic Welfare Australia
The Attorney-General | Community input sought on wide-ranging family law reforms (10/11/04)

Pontifical Academy looks breakdown in caring roles (CathNews 6/5/04)
Archbishop Bathersby applauds politicians' focus on family (CathNEws 22/10/04)

11 Nov 2004