Parenting risks cloud WA divorces
Parenting risks cloud WA divorces

A concerning increase in parenting and custody battles has hit WA, the Family Court's chief judge has warned in his annual report.

Statistics reveal more parenting disputes in the court are citing violence, drugs and child abuse risks as warring couples continue to wait more than two years for a trial.

Justice Stephen Thackray highlighted the trends in the report which also revealed a "concerning" jump in the number of people running their cases without a lawyer.

Court statistics revealed 2012-13 was out of the ordinary, he said.

"The court rarely sees significant changes in rates of filing of particular application types, but this year there was a 10.7 per cent increase in final order applications seeking only parenting orders and a 13.9 per cent reduction in final order of applications seeking only financial orders," Justice Thackray said.

"The increase in parenting applications is cause for concern. A particular concern is that about half of all final order parenting applications were filed by self-represented litigants, which is a major increase in the rate of self-representation.

"This represents a significant challenge, given that the court is greatly assisted when the parties have lawyers."

Though the Family Court finally received Government funding for a full judiciary, the blowout from years of understaffing meant the median wait for a trial was an "unacceptable 107 weeks".

One case took 211 weeks - more than four years - from when it was launched to reach trial.

A key cause of delays was parenting disputes were more complex, with concerns about possible violence and substance abuse.

The report revealed 67 per cent of all final order parenting applications were also screened for risks of harm to the children involved.

Of these, 69 per cent were deemed at risk of violence, 59 per cent of substance abuse at home and 51 per cent of child abuse.

The Department for Child Protection substantiated abuse in 11 to 15 per cent of cases the court referred.

The West Australian

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