Our services are directed to ensuring that children retain two actively engaged and fully participating parents in their lives after family breakdown. We give parents a helping hand with their family law problems, parenting schedules and child support issues because we have seen that given the right support and encouragement, most Australian mums and dads enthusiastically continue to share-parent or (co-parent) their children even when they live apart.
Our research says that children thrive when they are able to live with mum and live with dad in their parents' respective homes. Our goal is to assist children and the many fit and willing parents, so that they may continue to maximise their parenting time lived together, despite the inconveniences of divorce. We help families find solutions so that children are never forced to choose one parent over another or worse still, lose a parent through inequitable residency or contact arrangements. Rather equal or substantially equal shared residency is desirable where it is practicable to do so.
SPCA is often invited to conduct interviews and commentary for radio TV and Print media in which opportunities arise to better explain family law and shared parenting legislation as set out by Government.
Family Law Web Guide
We provide an advanced interactive web site for members and public. The Family Law Web Guide is Australia's leading family law web portal, and is already helping to empower separating couples, especially those with children. The portal provides a vast amount of information on Family Law and the legal process, Child support, Parenting Plans as well as many online Forums which provide an area where users can interact with questions, answers and discussions on a given topic.
The website has a number of main sections:
We provide to members and interested parties a range of documents relating to specific Child Support and Family Law issues.View Publications
Due to the decreasing legal aid pool and the large number of legal aid clients being "turned away" we are in a difficult position of having to provide, in many cases, urgent assistance to separating parents where a child has been relocated or access has been refused.
A big area of real time support is the assistance we provide in filling out forms which are not easily navigated or understood by parents who are separating. There is much work done by the SPCA in matters around COA (Change of Assessment), Court applications, SSAT applications and Affidavit material.
Another key area of support we provide to separating parents is in-house legal assistance and some external assistance where possible as well as at-court assistance. Our organisation has a close working association with a volunteer group "SRL Resources" which is a small support group for self-representing participants at court. We assist them on a regular basis with legal and practical advice and information which in turn is passed to self-representing participants.
We provide litigation assistance, Paralegal and some limited legal advice and are dealing with common problems during separation such as ensuring contact, dealing with allegations, helping with case preparation and property settlements. We guide participants to services, where available and in particular mediation as a first step.
Much work is done by our associated solicitors at negotiated rates and the SPCA executive Secretary is usually involved to ensure any documentation and filings are of the very highest standard.
Child Support Calculator
Our current calculator provides a single entry, easy-to-use calculator and is significantly easier, contains more features (multi case) and is vastly cheaper to maintain and run than that produced by the Government.View Calculator
We currently provide some limited telephone information and referral advice throughout Australia and also New Zealand. We provide counselling and emergency assistance and have provided emergency food aid as well as paid for medical attendance at after-hours GP evening services. There have been times when we have arranged for a drop-off service to hospital where a desperate parent has had no local assistance.
We have provided financial and organisational support to assist parents to find employment including funds directed towards cost of interstate flights, taxi transport, and provision of basic laptop computer to allow the parent to remain connected for employment opportunities.
Liaising with other Organisations
The SPCA works with a range of other organisations in the Families area in particular Family Law and Chid Support areas. We liaise with all members of the CSNSEG (Child Support National Stakeholder Engagement Group) as well as many other Family related organisations including the FRC's (Family Relationship Centres).
The executive Secretary also deals extensively with other parenting and governmental groups and we provide first and second level IT support to other organisations such as the LFAA.
We meet from time to time with court and other government organisations to deliver operational advice and have reviewed a wide range of Child Support systems, publications and raised a significant number of issues. Even though the child support system provides rough justice and is burdensome, the SPCA has worked extensively toward making the system fairer for all.
For example, we routinely test web pages, calculators, child support web site and other functions of family law and child support related web sites and report on technical issues found and suggest improvements.
We have also had a very large input into the Child Support IT group developing the newer front-end forms and statements. The Shared Parenting Council met on a number of occasions with both external consultants who had been engaged by the department and also Child Support design staff directly. The SPCA contributed extensively to the design, look and feel and layout of the newer statements, forms and letters.
These are real operational changes that have improved the experience for tens of thousands of clients in the Child Support system. In the area of family law the inputs are extensive. We have been contributing to the working party on Self Representing litigants in the family court and are currently engaged in building a new Judgements section for self-representing litigants to better prepare case material.
SPCA conducts public meetings to gauge community sentiment about family issues affecting parents and children and how parents and their children interact with various Government services.
The SPCA has recently charted the pathways after separation and provided a very extensive report to DSS for further analysis.
The 'Separation Pathways' schematic shows the most common pathways and directions that occur when a couple separates. Although the Pathways shown in the schematic are general in nature, the primary concern for the S.P.C.A. is the welfare of the children involved in separations.
* The S.P.C.A. acknowledges there are a number of key and important advocacy groups and stakeholders that are not specifically listed in the schematic but that have provided valuable inputs through analysis of emerging issues.
The SPCA has written a large number of reports and submissions to Federal and State Government to assist in forming legislative change. The graphic above is part of a large report to the Department of Social Services to map, as comprehensively as possible, the difficulties that separating parents experience when engaging the Family Law and Child Support Systems. The detailed map is typical of resource material provided by the Council as an aid to target, investigate and highlight emerging issues that negatively impact on parents and their children.
This map also serves as a presentation tool to show where issues arise in the time line of separation. The separation pathways indicate the various and many interactions between agencies that parents must navigate.
What the SPCA also found in this report was the increasing role of grandparents and extended families in providing care and support to the children of separating couples, and whom, in many instances become totally responsible for the children.