Separatist religious sects, the Family Law Act and shared parenting

an examination of cases involving the Exclusive Brethren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The decision of Brown J in Peter v Elspeth, involving members of the Exclusive Brethren, throws light on the dilemmas and difficulties the Family Court faces in establishing viable shared parenting orders when one party belongs to a separatist religious sect. In order to explore the issues that arise in such cases, this article examines recent Family Court decisions concerning parents who belong to the Exclusive Brethren, a sect which, consistent with the sect’s governing principles, not only refuses contact between children and ex-member parents, but has also been criticised as having engaged in litigation and obstruction attempts to prevent and sabotage parenting orders for the sharing of responsibility for and/or time with children. In parenting disputes involving the Exclusive Brethren there are two particular issues which cause difficulties for parents, children and the Family Court. These concern the interpretation and determination of a ‘meaningful relationship’ between parent and child and the relationship between a child’s best interests, and the particular religious beliefs, practices and lifestyle of the community in which they live.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-72
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian journal of family law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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