The new proposals for the family court system, designed by Jennifer McIntosh and Claire Ralfe from Relationships Australia will have a devastating affect on shared parenting, especially for children 5 years and under.
Jennifer McIntosh was instrumental in developing her very limited research suggesting children under 4 needed a primary attachment to one parent, usually the mother, after the Federal Government moved in 2006 to ensure the concept of shared parenting time became a realistic concept.
I am interested in your opinion on the structure of the McIntosh “DOORS”program, the quality of McIntosh’s research and what does it bring to the family court system to improve the process for parents and children.
Robert Whiston, a well-informed commentator, writing for the Father Knowledge
Centre Europe, focuses on McIntosh’s ‘findings’ that “centred around how ill-advised
it would be to let infants and toddlers under the age of 4 spend overnights [sleepovers] with their fathers. Warshak and Nielsen were the preeminent academics (followed up by Lamb and others of world renown), who challenged this blanket finding which was based on a tiny unrepresentative sample of less than 30 infants under the age of two and who overnighted more than 3 times a month.  https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/52/#_ftn2 McIntosh’s Machiavellian Mistake
Whiston suggests, “The Family Doors” and the “YCIDS” programmes (Young Child & Infant Development) have been created to sell her (McIntosh’s) services as an advisor who will teach parents and mental health professionals how to decide when the baby or the parents are “ready” to have overnighting – using naturally enough her criteria. The impact of this will be to frustrate any advance by legislation or the courts towards more fatherly involvement by setting up this additional academic hurdle for them to overcome.”
We discovered from the article (below) published in the Sydney Morning Herald that Jennifer McIntosh has been involved in designing a scheme to channel certain cases into predetermined streams for a number of years.
I found the program and the two questionnaires she proposed to use to identify the various problems parents may be experiencing. I have placed the two questionnaires side by side for comparison, Parent Self-Report on the left and Non-parent Self-report on the right.McIntosh forms (shared)
Prof. Richard A. Warshak wrote a paper Stemming the Tide of Misinformation which included attempts to limit the damage caused by McIntosh’s suggestions.
Here’s just a couple of comments from the paper.
ANALYTIC GAPS BETWEEN SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AND BLANKET RESTRICTIONS
Prof. Richard Warshak
An extensive knowledge base, drawn from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, informed the conclusions of the international consensus report. The Warshak Consensus Report refutes the claim that a scientific foundation exists for a general policy of limiting or discouraging young children’s overnights with one parent when their parents live apart. Those who advocate such a policy often cite two studies to support their concerns about the risks of shared parenting and overnights for children under the age of four. The first study was a 2010 report written by McIntosh, Smyth, and Kelaher, issued by the Attorney General’s department in Australia, and copyrighted by a clinic founded by the study’s first author.18 The second study, by Tornello et al., was published in 2013.19 The Warshak Consensus Report identified significant problems and limitations in both studies that should affect the admissibility and weight of testimony that relies on these studies.20 The U.S. Supreme Court in General Electric Co. v. Joiner noted: “[C]onclusions and methodology are not entirely distinct from one another. . . . A court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered.”
42 Given the wide gaps between the circumstances and characteristics of the parents in these two studies and those of most separating parents (especially custody litigants), the gaps between the flawed measures and the conclusions drawn from those measures, and the gaps between the actual data and opinions proffered about the data, the Warshak Consensus Report agrees with other scholars 43 that these two studies provide no reliable basis to support custody policy, recommendations, or decisions that restrict overnight shared parenting for young children.
Professor Warshak also provided additional commentary in reply to my request for his opinion on the “Doors” program.
“The main problem I envision is that McIntosh makes certain assumptions about how the answers to the questions on her forms should influence the type of parenting arrangements for children whose parents live apart from each other. And, these assumption are unwarranted, illogical, and not supported by reliable scientific evidence.”
Professor Warshak has previously criticised McIntosh’s work in 2018 when she had a form on her website called the CODIT.
He wrote: “I discuss the problems with this instrument in a 2018 journal article that is attached to this email. On page 309 of the attached article, I wrote that McIntosh’s CODIT states: “Even when all parenting conditions are met, high numbers of overnights (more than weekly) are not generally indicated for young infants 0–18 months subject to family law disputes.”
“I then explain that such a guideline proposes a rebuttable presumption against more than one overnight per week, even when the parents consistently and sensitively meet the children’s needs. In practice this guideline limits the child’s interactions with the father around bedtime rituals and morning routines simply if the mother objects. That is, the mother’s preference prevails even if her objection is capricious, even if her motives are vindictive, or even if the father demonstrates superior parenting.
I suggest drawing on my Night Shifts article for analyses and scientific evidence that may counter the reliance (or over-reliance) on McIntosh’s proposals.”
Then look at McIntosh’s and Relationships Australia suggestions for how counsellors, psych, court staff, even lawyers should handle the questioning of the parents. Download the Handbook from the url below.
The forms, one for each party, either the parent with the children or the contact parent, include dangerous questions, that if answered incorrectly will see you end up in the fast track pathway designated as potentially a risk and violent towards your ex and children.
Then see how it’s going to be applied…..
Sydney Morning Herald
August 19, 2020 — 12.00am
It is not often a court strongly discourages litigation, but the family courts in Australia are far from typical courts.
The disputes are emotionally complex, protracted, and parents or children may be at grave risk. There is much more to be lost than money, although the legal costs may be crippling.
Anne-Marie Rice started at the Family Court and Federal Circuit court on July 13 as a Senior Registrar and Executive Director, Dispute Resolution.CREDIT:DAN PELED
The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court – the latter, counterintuitively, hears about 90 per cent of family law cases – are working on a shake-up of the system to move families out of clogged courts while supporting those at risk.
Twin initiatives are in train: a pilot program dubbed the Lighthouse Project using technology to assess and triage cases, and a push to resolve matters via alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Seasoned mediator and family law specialist Anne-Marie Rice, a newly appointed senior court registrar and executive director based in Brisbane, is spearheading the courts’ national ADR focus.
She is joined by new senior registrars in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide with ADR expertise.
Ms Rice said the ADR push marks a “profound shift in the way family law generally is approached, and because the courts are doing it, it’s a genuine top-down leadership approach”.
“There is a real emphasis on exiting the system – not just from litigation fatigue, but because the courts are offering opportunities for parties who can come to agreement to find that agreement,” she said. The courts offered trained mediators “at essentially no cost” in parenting matters.
The majority of family law cases settle out of court, with 17 per cent ultimately determined by a judge. But cases may involve significant risk, and well over half raise allegations of family violence.
The courts were “acutely aware of the way family violence is experienced and plays out”, and there was “no suggestion that everything is going to flow into a mediation process and create risk”, Ms Rice said.
But when it was safe to resolve disputes outside court, the benefits to children in particular were “immeasurable”, she said.
Paired with the ADR focus is the Lighthouse Project, including an online tool to screen and triage cases to help direct families to health and other support services, such as police and child welfare authorities co-located in court.
Lisa O’Neill, the courts’ practice and procedure registrar, has been working for 18 months on the project, to be piloted in parenting matters in Parramatta, Brisbane and Adelaide later this year.
A secure online questionnaire screens for a variety of risks, including family violence, child abuse, self-harm and substance abuse. The questions may also be answered offline.
“All family courts across the world are seeing the same thing: high rates of family violence and families with complex needs, but there wasn’t any definitive way of [screening risk],” Ms O’Neill said.
“This is the first big-scale attempt to do that.”
The program adapts the Family Law DOORS (Detection of Overall Risk Screen) tool created by La Trobe University’s Professor Jennifer McIntosh and piloted by Relationships Australia South Australia.
The results, kept confidential from the judge and registrar, will help case managers and family counsellors triage cases into three categories including high-risk cases for a specialist list. The tool will also help identify matters appropriate for ADR.
Experienced family lawyer and mediator Kathryn Heuer, a newly appointed senior registrar, will oversee the Lighthouse Project pilot in Adelaide and said the program would allow the court to “front-load resources to the families that need it”.
“We have now some real legs on a system that is going to help families,” she said. END article.