1Q Relationship breakdown and re-partnering


Marie Johnson,

Jill Russell,

Wednesday November 21 2018

Time: 2:40pm – 3:10pm

Room: Mossman Ballroom

1Q Relationship breakdown and re-partnering

Post Orders Intervention program – A ‘hybrid’ approach to improve outcomes for court ordered families


In 2016, the Attorney General’s Department invited Uniting to participate in a one-year pilot program called the Post Orders Intervention Pilot (POI). The program was based at Uniting Counselling and Mediation, Parramatta, and delivered a hybrid therapy/mediation model to court ordered complex family law cases. POI was designed to support families with interim or final parenting orders to build parenting co-operation, address contraventions and reduce the need to return to court. The model involved an FDR Practitioner, Marie Johnson, and an authorised Family Therapist, Jill Russell, who co-facilitated each case and will share their experiences and learnings in this presentation.

This presentation will focus on the experience of implementing a pilot program, developing a hybrid approach to respond to the needs of the target client group, what was learned throughout the year, and how an existing practice model evolved into arguably a best practice approach for this complicated work. The presentation will highlight how POI helped to address the needs of post-separation parents exhibiting entrenched high-conflict and issues including mental illness, substance abuse, trauma and family violence. The program aimed to also address the developmental needs of children in these families, most of whom had lived through a number of years of court proceedings.

The majority of referrals into POI came from the judges at the Federal Circuit Court, Parramatta Registry. The presentation will also explore how relationships were fostered with the Court to support suitable referrals as well as the feedback from judges who become enthusiastic advocates for the POI program. In general terms the program utilised a flexible model with interventions based on the assessed needs of clients. In POI, the ‘hybrid’ approach was more than combining therapy and mediation practices. It included a broader mix of therapeutic, legal and mediation interventions such as child inclusive practice, individual counselling, the use of interpreters, the involvement of lawyers, Independent Children’s lawyer (ICLs) and support persons, and anything else clinically assessed as helpful to achieve positive outcomes for families, and in particular for children.

The evaluation of POI demonstrated that there were numerous and significant outcomes achieved through the POI program including reduced parental conflict, increased parental insight and direct child benefits as a result. These outcomes, and the challenges that were often faced, will be explored through a discussion on several POI cases to demonstrate the ‘hybrid’ POI model and share our learnings.


Marie Johnson has worked for 13 years as an accredited FDR Practitioner and Senior Supervisor. Marie has extensive experience with complex FDR cases, collaborative approaches and court ordered clients. Jill Russell has worked for 14 years and as a Child and Family Therapist predominately working with court-ordered post separation families.