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Relocation - Its a nasty business but some mothers just have to do it

Webcam - Virtual visitation is no substitute for the real thing, but it's better than nothing which is what some parents are left with when their former partners move overseas with the kids.

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Article from: The Sunday Times

Special investigation by John Flint

July 21, 2007 04:00pm

FIRST came the McDads - fathers at McDonald's on Sunday-morning access visits. Now there's the Webcam Dads: fathers who converse with their kids on the net.

Virtual visitation is no substitute for the real thing, but it's better than nothing €" which is what some parents are left with when their former partners move overseas with the kids.

The Child Support Agency says it collects and transfers on average 2,900 payments to recipients in other countries each month.

Once children have been uprooted to new cities and countries, the amount and quality of contact with the parent left behind depends on the children's ages and the other parent. Whereas older children are more inclined to communicate and are more internet-savvy, extensive research indicates infants become estranged from a parent quickly when they don't see them any more. Seven to 24 months is known as the "attachment phase".

If one parent, with good reason or not, wants to airbrush the other from their children's lives altogether, it's easiest if they are in a different country.

Relocation of children has long been a contentious issue for the Family Court of Australia. But the issue has been complicated further by recent amendments to the Family Law Act which emphasise the right of children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents after separation or divorce. A key change of the Shared Parental Responsibility Act is a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.

The Family Court of WA has in the past allowed relocation to occur in about 70 per cent of cases €" judges have traditionally viewed the best interests of the child as bound up in the best interests of the mother. But the law changes make it extremely difficult to reconcile allowing one parent to remove children to a foreign land, while protecting the children's rights to a meaningful relationship with the other parent, who remains in Australia.

The Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock last year got the Family Law Council to examine the issue. Its 90-page report recommended that no law changes be made until the results of two major Australian studies on the impact of relocation are known. But it did contend that phone and internet communication "is not sufficient for the child to maintain a meaningful relationship with a parent who lives elsewhere at some distance". And it recommended courts consider the age and developmental level of the child and whether "relocation would interfere with the child's ability to form strong attachments with both parents".

The council added: "The child-support legislation allows high costs of contact to justify a change of assessment of child support, but, for many, the costs of contact given a proposed relocation may far exceed the child-support liability, making this an inadequate remedy at best."

Appearing before a Federal Government committee in 2005 the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant, described relocation cases as "the hardest" the court sees: "These cases are heart-wrenching, they are difficult and they do not allow for an easy answer ... I have heard them described as cases which pose a dilemma rather than a problem. A problem can be solved; a dilemma is insoluble."


Last edit: by OneRingRules


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