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Child sexual abuse allegations in the Family Court of Western Australia: An old light on an old problem

Young, L. (1998) Child sexual abuse allegations in the Family Court of Western Australia: An old light on an old problem. Sister in Law, 3 . pp. 98-121.

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Abstract

Ten years ago, in the case of M and M, the High Court of Australia handed down what is still the definitive judgment in the area of child sexual abuse allegations in family court proceedings. The Court's approach in that case gave much cause for hope that the protection of children would be the major focus of parenting disputes where such allegations had been made. The High Court held, inter alia, that:

1. it was not the family court's role to determine whether or not child sexual abuse had actually occurred (as would be the case in a criminal trial); however,

2. a court was not to grant custody or contact to a parent if that custody or contact would expose the child to an unacceptable risk of sexual abuse.

The Full Family Court of Australia later added that if there is a positive finding of abuse, only in the most extraordinary cases would contact with the perpetrator of the abuse not be seen as exposing the child to an unacceptable risk of abuse. It was also held that if there is a finding of an unacceptable risk of abuse occurring, supervised contact may still provide an unacceptable risk of disturbance, whether physical, emotional or psychological, to a child who is compulsorily brought into contact with a parent who has sexually abused him or her or, who the child believes to have sexually abused him or her, and the court has the obligation to protect children from such harm.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Publisher: Enid Russell Society, School of Law, Murdoch University
Copyright: Enid Russell Society
Publishers Website: http://www.murdoch.edu.au/School-of-Law
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/21781
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