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in approved counselling organisations, are now called family and child counsellors to emphasise the child’s needs.

9.19A party to a marriage can seek counselling from a family and child counsellor by applying to the Family Court by notice.  Such an application can be made without any other proceedings being taken.929  On receiving the notice, the court service “shall arrange ... for the parties to be interviewed … for the purpose of ... the improvement of their relationship to each other or to any of the children”.930  There are also provisions for a parent or a child to seek such counselling from the court service,931 or a person may request the service direct from a family and child counsellor without a notice.932

9.20If, when making an order or granting an injunction, the court considers it to be in the interests of the parties or their children to attend upon a family and child counsellor, the court must direct or advise either or both parties to so attend.933

9.21The court can also advise parties to attend counselling if it may improve their relationship to each other or to any of their children.934  The court must consider whether or not to advise the parties in proceedings, other than those relating to children under Part VII, of counselling to assist them and their children to “adjust to the consequences of marital breakdown”.935

Conciliation counselling

9.22The 1975 Act contains provisions for a party to proceedings about children to seek counselling to discuss their care, welfare and development, and to try to resolve the differences between the parties.936  Conciliation counselling differs from mediation.937 Conciliation counselling  is designed to encourage a couple to talk together to reduce conflict and to encourage agreement of practical issues, particularly issues concerning residence and contact.  Conciliation counselling has broader aims than mediation, in that it can include counselling to help parents and children to adjust to the separation and work through their anger and hurt.  Section 65L provides that counsellors may be required to supervise or assist compliance with parenting orders, for example, supervising contact:

“It is a process whereby separating parents are encouraged and assisted to make joint decisions about the future welfare of their children ... Counsellors are required to maintain a focus on the best interests of the

929 Section 15 of the Family Law Act 1975.

930 Ibid at section 15(2).

931 Section 62E of the 1975 Act.

932 Ibid at section 62D as substituted by the 1995 Act.

933 Section 16A as substituted by the 1995 Act.  

934 Section 16B as substituted by the 1995 Act.

935 Section 16C.

936 Ibid at section 62C as substituted by the 1995 Act.

937 Paragraphs 9.22-3, 9.27-8, 9.31-5, 9.39, 9.44-7, 9.56-63, 9.76-9.89, 9.92-5, and 9.107-108  were substantially taken from an unpublished dissertation by Paula Scully, Obstacles to Referral, Planning and Implementation of Family Mediation as a Dispute Resolution Process in Hong Kong; Reflections based on Foreign Systems, April 1996.

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