Illawarra teachers are being inundated by family law issues, with more than two-thirds of calls to the Department of Education's legal services relating to events such as custody, family breakdowns and domestic violence, an Illawarra family law expert says.
University of Wollongong senior lecturer John Littrich said complicated domestic arrangements meant family law disputes had become more common in schools in recent years, creating a legal "maze" for teachers.
"As family breakdown or separation is more common, and also the fact that people choose to bring up children in all sorts of different relationships, there are more of these issues in families.
"There may be a family law order that determines when a child should be with a particular parent but then another parent turns up at school and tries to take the child and it's hard to know where teachers stand if they do the wrong thing."
Family law cases that teachers face range from simple quibbles like who should sign a child's excursion permission slip or pick them up from school, to serious matters such as restraining or family violence orders and which parent the school should contact in an emergency.
In partnership with a South Coast family law network and the Department of Education and Communities, Mr Littrich will develop a series of online seminars to help educate teachers about their role when dealing with family breakdown, vulnerable children or families experiencing violence.
The project is funded by the University of Wollongong's community engagement grants.
"We want to ensure decisions that teachers make in these cases don't put children at risk, and that children's best interests are kept as paramount," Mr Littrich said.
The resources will be ready within a year, with the first online seminar planned for early 2013.