Counselling service push



FAMILY law practitioners in the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour have started lobbying for a federally-funded counselling service to be established in Coffs Harbour.

The service would provide a first port of call for separating parents.

In a move it hoped would create a less adversarial family law system, the Howard Government announced in its May budget that it planned to spend up to $200 million building 65 Family Relationship Centres across the country.

Staffed by professional counsellors and mediators, the centres would allow separating parents an opportunity to resolve custodial and financial disputes before resorting to the family law courts.

Last week the Clarence River and Coffs Harbour Family Law Practitioners' Association chair Simon Caldwell met with Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker to secure his support.

"The idea is for people to use the centres as their first port of call when they have a relationship breakdown rather than necessarily involving solicitors to do the negotiating for them," Mr Caldwell said.

"People will still be able to get legal advice before they go to those places ... but the idea is part of a social change ... where people will be able to reach agreements with each other more and more."

Mr Hartsuyker was unavailable for comment yesterday.



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