A child-inclusive approach to family dispute resolution (FDR) can make agreements more durable and workable, and halve the likelihood of new litigation over the coming year, according to La Trobe University research findings.
The La Trobe University report into family dispute resolution mediation by Jennifer McIntosh and Caroline Long, funded by the Attorney-General's Department, concludes a four-year follow-up study of the outcomes from child-inclusive post-separation family dispute resolution.
The report tracks the outcomes for children of 142 families who had separated or divorced and attended child-inclusive or child-focussed mediation or FDR rather than going to court.
According to the findings, both the child-inclusive and child-focussed groups shared a "significant and enduring reduction in levels of conflict occurred for both groups in the year since mediation."
The children involved in the interventions perceived "less frequent and intense conflict between their parents, and better resolution of it".
From the children's perspective, the child-inclusive intervention was associated with closer relationships with their fathers, and more emotionally available care from their mothers.
Family Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) has welcomed the findings.
"Community service organisations operating FDR or mediation services, including family relationship centres, have specialist child consultants and mediators or practitioners providing these models to separated families. Many of these services have also been impressed by the positive impact of child-inclusive mediation on outcomes for children and families in recent years," said Samantha Page, FRSA's executive director.
Page also called on the Federal Government to acknowledge the importance of mediation funding.
"Organisations operating family relationship centres would certainly like to offer more child-inclusive mediation to each appropriate case. However, there are no specific funds for this beyond the Federal Government's provision for three free hours of face-to-face mediation or FDR.
"While the FRSA welcomes the findings of these improved outcomes for families who participate in the more intensive model, we call on the Federal Government to provide increased resources for organisations to offer this in more cases," said Page.