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Adelaide - Feminist Anti-Shared Parenting Conference 13-15 April 2005

As predicted, Elspeth et al are ramping up the attack on shared parenting.

For the flavour of this 'seminar' read page 313 of the attached paper by keynote speaker Professor Carol Bruch, University of California (article in the Family Law Quarterly, Vol 40, Number 2, 2006, 'Sound research or wishful thinking in child custody cases: lessons from relocation law':

Quote (Under conclusion): There is no free lunch when parents divorce. Restrictions on relocation by custodial parents, frequent visits for very young children or those in high-conflict families, and punitive custody transfers - whether in relocation settings or otherwise - cannot provide sensible results. Although this conclusion may be intuitively obvious only when domestic hostility or violence is present, it is also the logically inescapable result of a child-centered inquiry in less dramatic cases.

In other words, nothing most impede what custodial mothers want to do.  And they call that "child-centered" to try and hide the reality that it is MOTHER-CENTRED.

Also see another post on this conference by the Secretary SPCA.

Hawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies
University of South Australia
Centre for Peace, Conflict and Mediation

Shared parental responsibility in Australian family law and the impact on children Seminar 13 -15 April, 2008

Shared parental 'responsibility' feminist seminar

Click for flyer


Invitation to a special, multidisciplinary seminar on 'Shared parental responsibility in Australian family law and the impact on children'.
13-15 April 2008

Dale Bagshaw* (for more about this feminist and her agenda see quote below at the end of this post) and Alan Campbell from the Centre for Peace, Conflict and Mediation, Hawke Research Institute, University of South Australia invite you to attend a special multidisciplinary seminar which will be held at the Civic Gallery on Level 3, Hawke Building, University of South Australia's City West Campus on Sunday evening April 13th (registration, cocktails and Art Exhibition) and all day Monday and Tuesday, 14 -15 April, 2008 at the Bradley Forum on Level 5, Hawke Building, University of South Australia's City West Campus, North Terrace, Adelaide.

The Hawke Building is marked H on the map.

The seminar will examine in depth the consequences for children of some of the recent changes to the Australian Family Law Act. Presenters will focus on the most current theories, research, practice wisdom and parental experiences in relation to the emphasis given to shared parenting and associated decision-making after separation and divorce. The main focus will be on the outcomes of the changes for Australian children, including those children who have been, or are at risk of being, exposed to high level parental conflict, violence and child abuse.

Keynote speakers:

* Chief Justice Bryant, Family Court of Australia

* Professor Carol Bruch, Distinguished Research Professor of Law and Professor Emeritus, University of California (see her article in the Family Law Quarterly, Vol 40, Number 2, 2006, 'Sound research or wishful thinking in child custody cases: lessons from relocation law'.)


* Professor Thea Brown, Department of Social Work, Monash University, Victoria

Confirmed speakers include:

* Dr Alan Campbell, School of Social Work and Social Policy, UniSA
* Ms Alison Hay, Anglicare, Western Australia
* Ms Marie Hume, Convenor, National Abuse Free Contact Campaign
* Dr Daryl Higgins, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Victoria
* Associate Professor Carolyn Quadrio, Associate Professor, School of Psychiatry, UNSW
* Dr Elspeth McInnes AM, School of Education, UniSA
* Ms Julie Redman, family lawyer and mediator, South Australia
* Dr Sunita Shaunak, family law consumer, Queensland
* Dr Amanda Shea Hart, School of Social Work, University of Central Queensland
* Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw, School of Social Work & Social Policy, UniSA - commentator
* Professor Rick Sarre, Professor of Law, UniSA - commentator

Aims and Background of the Seminar

Shared parental responsibility in Australian family law and the impact on children
The aims of the seminar

* To provide a forum for multidisciplinary discussion and debate around the position of children within the new family law system

* To build our understandings of what constitutes the best interests of the child in relation to shared parenting, in particular where children are at risk of, or exposed to, parental violence and child abuse

* To provide a platform for informed, multidisciplinary debate about the relevance of the controversial 'parent alienation syndrome' in decision making following parental separation

* To explore the relationship between the recent family law reforms and the legal, social and community responses to them
Background and significance of the seminar

In 2005, the Commonwealth Government legislated for significant changes to the Family Law Act 1975. These changes included a rebuttable presumption that separated parents will hold joint responsibility for their children's welfare (Section 61DA) and a requirement that family advisors inform parents that they may consider an arrangement whereby a child could spend equal time with each of them if such an arrangement was considered reasonably practicable and in the best interests of the child (Section 63DA). Further, parents are now required to attend family dispute resolution prior to lodging an application with the Family Court and to show that they made a 'genuine effort' to resolve their issues with a family dispute resolution practitioner (Section 60I), or provide evidence of family violence or child abuse (Section S60J). Since these changes came into effect in July 2006, a number of concerns have been raised by many people in the field, especially in relation to the reification of shared parenting, the controversial concept of 'parental alienation syndrome', and the increased marginalisation of the issue of family violence in decision making involving children. In particular, some argue that the new family law system has the potential to put children at greater risk of emotional, physical and verbal abuse from an abusive parent.

Register for the Seminar

Registration cost:

(includes drinks and nibbles on Sunday evening; lunch, morning and afternoon tea/coffee and snacks on Monday and Tuesday)
$165 (inc GST) for registrants other than speakers
$65 (inc GST) for full-time students
Optional extra: $40 for dinner (inc GST) at Regattas Monday night (payable with registration)
Deadline for registrations: 28 March 2008
Cancellation fee: $55 (inc GST)

We would like you to join us for a dinner on Monday evening, 14 April. Please let us know with your registration if you wish to come so we can book. Dinner will be held at Regattas Bistro, Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace from 7 pm.
Payment of $40 GST inclusive (2 courses). Please note the dinner menu does not include drinks or beverages.
Address for the seminar

Hawke Building
50-60 North Terrace
Adelaide, South Australia 5000
Map link

Suggested accommodation for interstate and country participants
Saville City Suites
255 Hindley Street
Adelaide SA 5000
T: 08 8217 2500
F: 08 8217 2519

Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw and Dr Alan Campbell
Centre for Peace, Conflict and Mediation, Hawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies
School of Social Work & Social Policy
University of South Australia
St Bernard's Road, Magill, South Australia 5071
Mobile: 0408 805 641
Mobile: 0417 557 609
Seminar coordinator:  Roopa Howard

Additional reading

The Law Report on Shared Parenting

Housing crisis and divorcing couples; shared parenting

ABC Radio National

The Law Report
26 February 2008

The housing crisis… it's having a huge impact on many Australians. But one group is copping it really tough: divorcing couples.

While women often stay in the family home, a new study has found that two years after divorce, women are even less likely to be home owners than their former husbands.

Also, shared parenting - does it work when parents are still at each other's throats?

Download Audio (13MB)

Damien Carrick: I know many couples, both of whom have good jobs and good incomes, who together can't buy their own home. It's hard enough for two-income families. Today on The Law Report we're looking at a group that's been hit very hard by the housing crisis: divorcing couples.

Also we look at whether shared parenting works in high conflict situations. New research is ringing a cautionary bell. That's later. First, home ownership.

Kevin Rudd: The reality of modern life in Australia is that there's no such thing as a small interest-rate rise.

News presenter: The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, acknowledging the impact of today's rise in official rates.

Reporter: It's not getting any easier for home buyers. New figures from the Real Estate Institute show home affordability has dropped more than 8% in the past year, and Australians are spending an average of more than 36% of their income on home loan repayments.

Reporter: More people are losing their homes now because of mortgage defaults in New South Wales than they were during the last recession.

Damien Carrick: Owning the home with a garden for the kids to play in: it's the Great Aussie Dream for most young couples. But when spouses decide to go their separate ways, that means pulling apart the combined assets, and leaving everyone in a worse financial position.

Dr Mike Dockery is a housing expert at Curtin University. He's one of the authors of a new study by the Australian Housing and Research Institute, a study that's found when couples divorce, home ownership is often the casualty, and that's especially true for women.

Mike Dockery: Well there's a common perception in the community that what happens when couples break up is that she keeps the house and he moves on. But what we've actually found is contrary to that perception. It's actually women who fall out of home ownership, more often than men. So that's opposed to what the usual perception is, and we think it's mainly because, or what our data is telling us is, it's mainly because women suffer financially a lot more; they're more likely to be in housing affordability stress and struggle to keep up payments or rent after a separation.

Damien Carrick: You looked at where people were two years after divorce and separation, and you found that statistically speaking, women were more likely to be renting than men.

Mike Dockery: Well that's true. They were more likely to fall out of home ownership after the divorce, whether that's purchasing or owning outright. And there's two main contributing factors. One of them is that men are more likely to re-partner, which helps you get back on the housing ownership ladder. But the main factor is actually that the woman is more likely to keep the children, and that places added stress on affordability.

Damien Carrick: In other words, a lot more of the income is going towards keeping the family.

Mike Dockery: That's right. She may initially stay in the original home, and of course they try to do that for emotional reasons and wanting to keep the kids at their current school and near their friends, and so on. But in the longer term, that actually, often because they now don't need as large a house as they had once one partner's gone, they're actually over-consuming housing and this just contributes to financial stress, and in the long run it actually runs down their assets, and they're more likely to end up in private rentals.

Damien Carrick: What is the before and after divorce picture in terms of home ownership? What do your figures tell you?

Mike Dockery: When we looked at people before they divorced, of those couples, about 66% were home owners. So they either owned their home, or they had a mortgage, and they were paying off the home, and the other 34% were renting. When we looked at them a year after the divorce, that 66% had fallen down to 48%, so you've lost more than 15%; those people move out of home ownership into rental status, and of course on the flipside the proportion who are renting goes up from 34% to about 50%.

Damien Carrick: Two years down the track after a divorce or separation, what were the figures in terms of men and women who continued to be living in a house that they either owned or were buying?

Mike Dockery: What we found is, before people separate, typically housing costs are about 13% of household income. After separation, after the first year, that goes up to about 20%, and then it recovers a little bit down to sort of 18% or 17%, but it's still much higher than that initial 13%. There's a commonly used figure of if housing costs are more than 30% of your income, that's called housing affordability stress, and a lot more people end up in housing affordability stress. And if you look at people who are on income support, which is one of the data sets we were using, the proportion of people in housing affordability stress jumps markedly from around 40% up to 75%, 80%. So nearly four in five people paying more than 30% of their income on housing affordability following a break-up. For people who lose their household dissolution through separation or bereavement, the proportion who are in housing affordability stress paying a large amount of their household income on housing, virtually doubles, it really skyrockets.

Damien Carrick: Mike Dockery, from Curtin University.

Mel (not her real name) separated from her husband two-and-a-half years ago. The couple have two teenage children. In the divorce settlement she got the house, but she's now finding she can't afford to keep it.

Mel: I'm faced now, two and a half years on, with the distinct possibility that I may have to sell the family home to survive, basically.

Damien Carrick: Because you can't afford to keep up the mortgage repayments?

Mel: Yes. I think 11 interest rate rises since I took out the re-financing option on this house, and my income hasn't gone up 11 times, that's for sure.

Damien Carrick: So you're asset rich, but you're income poor.

Mel: Exactly. I have two teenage children, one who's just started university, one who's in his last two years of school, and one of the decisions was to try and retain the family home to give them some sense of stability, continuity and security, at a time when emotionally things were quite a bit challenging for everybody. And I'd really prefer to keep living here until my younger child finishes school but I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to do that.

Damien Carrick: In that sort of settlement of the property issues when your marriage ended, what percentage of the asset base did you get?

Mel: Fifty-five per cent.

Damien Carrick: Fifty-five per cent, but you got the house.

Mel: Yes.

Damien Carrick: So on paper it sounds pretty good.

Mel: On paper it sounded OK. I mean if the kids had been younger I probably would have argued for a larger proportion. So yes, I got the house and my ex-husband got the business, which was the income bearing asset.

Damien Carrick: Mel. Of course every divorce is unique. Justin (not his real name) lives on the south coast of New South Wales. He's involved in the local branch of Dads in Distress. For a male, he's in the unusual position of having kept the house, but he's only holding on with financial help from his parents.

Justin: We've entered into conciliation over property, and after many months came to an agreement of a 60/40 split, 60 her way, 40 mine, which was based around me keeping the house, which I wanted for the children, and her getting the money, which is what she wanted. So it's a house in a regional town in New South Wales, it's in a good location and it's close to all three children's schools, which is one of the reasons that it made a lot of sense to hang on to it. And although it was going to be very difficult for me for a period of, say, three to five years, I knew we'd be struggling to make ends meet, particularly given that the value of the house had doubled after my second wife and I bought it, and usually you think that's great till your marriage goes bust and then you're trying to buy out your ex to keep the house for the kids at twice the price.

Damien Carrick: So you're saying that when you're in the midst of a housing boom, skyrocketing housing prices are not a good thing for divorcing couples.

Justin: Not at all, not at all, because both parties become single and then you're on single incomes and if you're trying to hang on to the house you have less means. In my case the mortgage commitment went up by a factor of four, there's only one of me, it's twice what it was when we bought it – because we looked at the alternative of losing the house and trying to start again, buying something else with the half share that we'd get, and that really wasn't very attractive either at all. Like we were effectively going way backwards to the bottom of the housing market. And we were then comparing that with renting, and seeing which would be better.

Damien Carrick: As difficult as divorce is for parents, the big losers are the kids. There's the pain of watching Mum and Dad split up, but even, once the dust settles, kids can still suffer. Even with the best will in the world, shuffling children between two houses is not ideal.

However, Justin reckons there could be a way around this.

Justin: It came to me one night and I've since heard other people, including children, suggest this, which is quite simply, post-separation, the children get the house. It's the parents who have lost the ability to live with each other harmoniously, and yet the parents who want to stay in touch with the children. So surely it's only fair that the parents are the ones who suffer the brunt of needing to pack up their stuff at the end of the week or the fortnight, the weekend, whatever it is, and move in and out, and leave the children in their space, undisrupted.

Now of course some people will say that's barmy, because you're asking the parents to cooperate about continuing to share the upkeep, maintenance and management, where it could involve mortgage and all of that for a property, but you're asking me what's better for the children? And I reckon that's better for the children.

Mel: I'm not convinced about giving the kids the house and the parents moving in and out, I'm just not convinced about that. I had a colleague about ten years ago who did exactly that. She and her ex-husband had separate apartments in the city, and their family home was out of the city, where their daughter stayed with the parents taking turns two weeks at a time. And it worked OK until they re-partnered, and then it all fell apart.

Damien Carrick: Do you think it's a good idea?

Mel: From the children's perspective, possibly. But I think it has the potential to lead to lots of animosity between the spouses, and if there's animosity between the spouses, that has an impact on the children as much as them staying in their own routine. I could imagine myself moving back in on a Sunday night after my ex had moved out on the Sunday afternoon for my turn, to find that he might not have mown the lawn, or the house might be in absolute turmoil, and I get to do all the housework. I would resent that, immensely. And I think it would be extremely difficult emotionally to manage that.

Damien Carrick: Mel. And before her, Justin.

Let's stay with family law, but shift from the fraught issue of property to the equally fraught issue of who cares for the kids.

New research published in the latest edition of the journal Australian Family Lawyer, has found that equal shared parenting can, in some high-conflict situations, lead to emotional harm for young children.

The authors, Jen McIntosh, a clinical psychologist, and Richard Chisholm, a former judge of the Family Court, say that changes to the Family Law Act in 2006 promoted the idea of shared equal parenting. But there was confusion about what this actually entailed.

Richard Chisholm: The reforms distinguished clearly I think between two aspects of parenting. One is the making of decisions, and the other is spending time with children. There had been a lot of confused talk about things like joint custody, and there was a lot of misunderstanding about whether a phrase like 'joint custody' might have meant shared decision-making, or parents having equal time. All of that has now been clarified, I think, and the legislation, although complex, is pretty clear about this. It says that there is to be a presumption that it's best for children that their parents have equal shared parental responsibility.

Now that refers to decision-making, it has nothing to do with how much time the child spends with each parent, and that presumption doesn't apply in all cases. For example, it doesn't apply in cases where there's violence, but it applies in run-of-the-mill cases.

Secondly, in relation to time, there are some provisions which in effect say that in ordinary circumstances the court has to consider (that's the word used in the Act) whether the children should spend equal time with each parent, or if not equal time, then what's called substantial and significant time. So the legislation really does create a presumption in relation to decision-making, but it doesn't create a presumption in relation to time. Instead it says that the courts need to think about whether the children would be better off spending equal time or lots of time with each parent.

Damien Carrick: But from what you know, has there been a change in the number of orders imposing substantially shared overnight care as a result of the introduction of this presumption?

Richard Chisholm: I don't have those figures, and it's really a bit early to tell. There is an evaluation going on, of the legislation. So these things, I hope, will all become known in due course. But anecdotal evidence, which is gossip, suggests that people are much more inclined than they used to be, to ask the court for orders for equal time, and I think it's almost certainly true that there would be more orders for equal time being made these days, and probably orders about children spending unequal time with each parent would be moving a bit closer towards equal time. That is, in cases where a few years ago the child might have spent alternate weekends with the father, perhaps from the Saturday morning to Sunday night, or something like that, these days it's much more likely that the weekend would be extended for example from Friday night to Monday morning, and quite possibly a mid-week time with the father as well. So my hunch is that what you might call the normal, the average order, has probably shifted in the direction of children spending more time with the other parent, if I can put it that way.

Damien Carrick: The presumption of shared equal parenting now underpins decisions of the Family Court, Jenny McIntosh, now you along with Richard Chisholm have been writing a report which you say raises big concerns about this presumption. What have you found?

Jen McIntosh: Richard and I have been careful actually to couch it in terms of cautions, rather than big concerns. Over the last three, four years, and I've had a number of samples of Australian families involved in my research, and all of them in various stage of high conflict separation, either needing mediation in the community, or needing to attend court for the resolution of their parenting dispute. Now in those samples, I by-the-by was exploring the issue of which children were not doing very well in the four months to a year after settlement. And in both my community studies and my court studies, what emerged was that one of the factors implicated in cases of children not doing very well emotionally, was shared care.

Now to put that in context, it seemed to be that children who were living in substantially shared care who were not doing well were somehow being taxed developmentally by that arrangement. And it went hand-in-hand with situations where parents remained in high conflict, they were not cooperating, their acrimony was extreme and, importantly, the emotional availability of the parents was low. So we know that to be one of the outcomes of high conflict divorces, that parenting styles are affected. So shared care reared its head in both of these studies, independent studies, as a factor that seemed to be predicting children who were not doing well when their parents remained in high conflict.

Damien Carrick: But is the problem the high conflict, or is the problem the shared parenting?

Jen McIntosh: That's a very good question. Now I think what research is showing very clearly is that shared parenting adds another layer of risk to situations that are already fraught with conflict, because of the exposure of children to ongoing derogation of a parent by another parent to frequent transitions between two warring camps heightens the demands on the child.

Damien Carrick: So you're saying that in families where there is ongoing high conflict, there might not be contact between the warring parents, so communication might actually have to go through the child, and I think you're also saying in some cases where there's high conflict, the children won't be sheltered from that conflict, they might either observe it - shouting parents - or they might hear one parent bagging the other parent.

Jen McIntosh: Indeed. Well in my Family Court study over 70% of the parents who were sharing the care of their children, reported that they almost never cooperated with each other. That's, when we talk about concerns, that is the sort of data that concerns me. So shared care has all sorts of benefits for ongoing relationships, but equally we do need to understand when those benefits are eroded.

Damien Carrick: Where Richard was mentioning before the amount of time spent with fathers does seem to be expanding, my response to that is, fantastic. And if we can get to a point where people are spending equal time with both parents, that's terrific. The age of a child, how does that impact on this discussion?

Jen McIntosh: Yes. What substantially shared care arrangements do for infants is of concern, because I think what it does it to rewrite some of the very commonsense rules that we have, logic that we have, about what infants need by way of continuity of care. So all of a sudden when we have a separation or a divorce, shared care comes into the equation as something that might promote fairness for each parent, and something that might promote the ongoing relationship of the infant with each parent. But many developmentalists, including myself, would argue that it actually creates a layer of risk for infants, because they can lose continuity of relationship, they can lose continuity of attachment. Particularly in my clinic, I will often see infants in shared care who are also in daycare. Their attachments are quite fragmented. What the human brain requires for healthy development is secure attachment and continuity of care. And this becomes a concern when we have an infant who is fought over by two parents, and the infant inadvertently can lose security with both parents.

Damien Carrick: Can't you have two primary attachments as an infant?

Jen McIntosh: You definitely can have two primary attachments as an infant. But what we know is that the security of attachment with one parent can be jeopardised by absence from that parent. Infant security with their primary caregiver can be eroded because of frequent absences that, from the infant's point of view, feel unpredictable and beyond their control. Like their primary caregiver has disappeared. These are the things that create the tensions.

Damien Carrick: These issues around primary attachments and you're suggesting that there are potential risks about falling between the cracks. Is that only in situations of high conflict, or are you saying that shared equal parenting, where you have cooperation, but just shared equal parenting, two separate compartmentalised families – you're saying that's also a risk?

Jen McIntosh: For the under-3 population equal shared parenting is a developmental risk. For the over-3 population it becomes much more viable, but it remains a risk when for that population of older children, the parents are in high conflict and do not cooperate. So we have parents who come to the clinic who are in an awful hurry to get on with shared parenting. And they have young infants. Sometimes it's a case of supporting them, to wait and to build a developmentally appropriate arrangement. So that doesn't mean no overnights, but it means a gradual increase of overnights. And from my perspective, this is not a gendered debate, this is about attachment. Recently I've had several cases in the clinic of fathers who are the primary attachment figure, and my work has really been to encourage the mother to let go a little, to back off on the time issue in order that the infant or the young child can bed down their security with the father. And that over time, what we do is plan gradual increase of overnight care. It's not a gender dispute, it's about attachment.

Damien Carrick: I hear what you're saying, that this isn't a gender dispute, but I'm sure that a lot of men listening to this would say, Hey, wait a minute, the practicalities are that the women are the traditional primary attachment figure, they're the ones who traditionally stay at home. So this kind of discussion is code for rolling back the reforms of the previous government which was very mindful of the fact that there are too many dads who are locked out.

Jen McIntosh: I agree. I certainly wouldn't be advocating a return to the old system. But I am, Richard and I, in this paper, are advocating caution about over-zealous application of the shared care principle, and rushing children beyond the developmental pace that they can tolerate.

Damien Carrick: Well, Richard Chisholm, when judges are now making decisions in Family Court disputes, do you think that they're aware of these child development issues?

Richard Chisholm: Look, judges are very aware of this debate, all of this is very familiar stuff to judges.

Damien Carrick: And do you think the judges always get it right, or do you think that there are issues around the way this legislation is being applied?

Richard Chisholm: I'm sure judges don't always get it right, nobody gets anything right all the time. I think that things are probably improving. It may be true that in previous years everybody, not only judges, but lawyers presenting cases and perhaps the parties themselves, underestimated the importance for children of having a continuing close relationship with the other parent, and if that's right, that is, if that was a problem, then I think we've seen a correction.

Damien Carrick: Former Family Court judge Richard Chisholm, with psychologist Jen McIntosh, who's an associate professor at La Trobe University.

Justin, the divorced father from the south coast of New South Wales who we heard from earlier, has three children by two marriages. His first marriage ended amicably and his 16-year-old daughter from that relationship happily spends half her time with mum, and half with dad.

But his two younger children are from a marriage that ended badly. Equal shared parenting is not an option at the moment. But Justin is convinced of the benefits of shared equal parenting, even in difficult circumstances, but he does acknowledge one size doesn't fit all.

Justin: Yes, this is where I remember what I am told by just about every person I've seen in the counselling milieu, that children are resilient, and when the conflict ceases, they will bounce back. The living arrangements have lasting life effects for the children. The conflict is disturbing and damaging when it's taking place, but it's usually less, usually a lot less long-lived than the living arrangements. What constitutes meaningful access is a subjective decision. Does the infant who's still breast-feeding obviously need more time in the care of Mum, and yet longer term, is it not vital that Dad is there on a regular basis frequently, and so that the bond is maintained? This is where the notion of shorter times more often while young, graduating with time to longer times less often when older, seems to work well.

I remember another dad, post separation, saying that he thought fortnight-about was the least disruptive, most workable set-up, post separation. We were talking about older children. For infants, that's too long. So I know some people with really young ones who do day about, one day here, one day there, one day here, one day there.

Damien Carrick: Does that work?

Justin: For them, it works, and that's what it really is, it's a very individual thing.

Damien Carrick: Justin, a divorced father of three, who is a member of Dads in Distress.

That's The Law Report for this week. A big Thank You to producer Anita Barraud and technical producer Kyla Brettle.

Dr Mike Dockery
Housing Expert, Curtin University - co-author, study, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute

Divorced mother of two teenagers

Divorced father of three and member of Dads in Distress, NSW

Jen McIntosh
Clinical psychologist, La Trobe University

Richard Chisholm
Former judge of the Family Court

Further Information

The Implications of Loss of Partner for Older Private Renters
For the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute
Dr Mike Dockery et al

Shared Care and Children's Best Interests In Conflicted Separation
Jen McIntosh & Richard Chisolm published in Australian Family Lawyer, Vol 20 No. 1

Presenter: Damien Carrick
Producer: Anita Barraud
End Note said
*Dale Bagshaw is exposed for the feminist she is:

Asia Pacific Mediation Forum

Culture and the disclosure of domestic violence in family law disputes (60 minute paper and dialogue)
Dale Bagshaw

Dale's presentation will address the research findings from two research studies she conducted and coordinated for the Australian Office of the Status of Women's Partnerships Against Domestic Violence in 1999 which have been published in Commonwealth Government Reports and in refereed journals.

Drawing from existing research, this presentation explores why women who experience domestic violence may not disclose their experiences to police, crisis services and professionals such as family and child mediators. The author proposes a feminist rationale and methodology to assist mediators to consider the experiences and needs of women who are subjected to various forms of domestic violence before, during and after separation and divorce. The presentation will also consider the special needs of abused women from different locations and cultural backgrounds.

Full paper in RTF format (26 pages)

Dale Bagshaw (M Soc Admin, Dip Soc Stud, BA)

Director, Conflict Management Research Group, University of South Australia

Dale first became involved in mediation and conflict management whilst on study leave from the University of South Australia at Columbia University in New York in 1983. Since that time she has conducted mediation training programs for professionals from a wide range of disciplines in all Australian states and many overseas countries. She was the Head of the School of the Social of Social Work and Social Policy from 1992-5 and is now the Director of UniSA's Conflict Management Research Group and Program Director of postgraduate programs - the Graduate Certificate in Mediation (Family and Workplace Relations), Graduate Diploma in Conflict Management and Master of Conflict Management. She has convened many mediation conferences at a local, national and international level, presented papers at many national and international conferences and published widely in refereed journals. She has studied mediation and conflict management practices in many overseas countries including the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Sweden, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa and recently in Austria.

Dale established the South Australian Dispute Resolution Association (SADRA) in 1988 and was Chairperson from 1988-99. She has served on several national councils advising the Commonwealth Government including the Family Services Council (as the inaugural Chairperson), the Family Law Council and the National Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse. She is currently the Vice-President of the World Mediation Forum and as convenor of the inaugural Asia Pacific Mediation Forum aims to establish a Steering Committee for future conferences in the Asia Pacific region.

Anti-family activist seminar attacks and campaigns against shared parenting

Two articles about a feminist and mothers' rights activist seminar in Adelaide about 'family law' and 'shared parental responsibility' FYI.

Predictable as always.  This anti-family 'seminar' was always going to be anti-father and anti-shared parenting.

The feminist activists are seeking to roll back the benefits of separated children living with Dad, in favour of the old one-size-fits-all sole maternal custody and control model favoured by feminists and mothers' rights activists.

These two articles point to an intent to roll back legislation that provides for family benefits for separated children and fathers.

Given the feminist and anti-father biases and agendas of the speakers, you don't have to be Einstein to know that the outcome was never in doubt.

A bit like the 2020 Summit!

Such people, who talk about children so much, are really hiding behind them and using them to seek to maintain their benefits and control.  They are not really interested in the welfare and best interests of their children.  If they were they would not be seeking to separate them from good and loving fathers.

One only has to listen in on a feminist or mothers' rights forum for a short time to learn that the main themes are control, money and excuses to exclude fathers in order to maintain the control and gain the money.
The Australian, 15 April 2008 said
Joint custody 'can put children at risk'
By Pia Akerman

Family law experts have called for changes to legislation that emphasises joint custody, arguing it is putting children back into potentially dangerous situations where they risk being abused.

A conference of social policy and law experts and practitioners in Adelaide has heard amendments to the Family Law Act that came in under the Howard government in 2006 have effectively tied the hands of judges who would wish to more severely limit contact between parents and children in high-conflict families.

Dale Bagshaw, conference organiser and co-ordinator of the University of South Australia's Centre for Peace, Conflict and Mediation, said the amendments, which stressed parents sharing duties and responsibilities for children, were having dangerous consequences in some cases.

"It's of great concern that children are now being not only encouraged but in some instances forced by parenting orders to go into situations where there's a risk of either them witnessing violence or being directly abused themselves," Professor Bagshaw said.

"With the changes to the act, there's now more priority given to this notion of shared parental responsibility than there is to the best interests of the child. There's a good deal of disgruntlement amongst practitioners with the change."

Professor Bagshaw, who served three years on the National Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse, said family law practitioners felt the reference to shared time between parents should be removed from the act.

The conference organisers would form a working party to take the outcomes to government and the judiciary.

"We're focusing very much on the outcomes for children," Professor Bagshw said, "and the outcomes for children have not been positive."

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland could not say whether the Labor Government was considering rolling back the amendments, or what Mr McClelland's position was.

Carol Bruch, a member of the executive council of the International Society of Family Law and an adviser on family law to the US Secretary of State, said research showed frequent contact with both parents was not necessary for a child's healthy development, and that the quality of the parent-child relationship was more important.

"All of the pressure towards 50:50 or 35:65 physical care arrangements are quite unusual in the world, and are of great concern to the people here," she said, warning that the courts could be compounding harm to children in conflicted families instead of alleviating it.
ABC News, 14 April 2008 said
Conference to examine Family Law Act

Social workers, lawyers and psychiatrists are holding a conference in Adelaide today on the impact on children of recent changes to the Family Law Act.

The Act was changed last year to place more emphasis on the need for children to spend equal time with their parents during separation or divorce.

The three-day conference will explore how these changes are affecting children who live in an abusive environment.

Uni SA Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw says this is the first conference solely focused on the impact of the amendments.

"There's some concern that children are being sent into situations that aren't entirely satisfactory for them, situations where they're at risk of either witnessing abuse or being abused," she said.

"We're concerned that the best interests of the children, in some instances, may have been subsumed to the best interests of the parent.

"I've been getting email after email from grandparents, from parents with stories about what's happening to their children during separation and divorce, being forced to go into situations where they're very much at risk, where they're unsafe and certainly where they're very unhappy."
I think there is a great necessity to resolve this situation, but how are you going to police the section of the population that sees children as a possession and encourage them to share their children?

How are you going to instil in them that alienation is a negative thing and they should not subject their children to this form of a abuse?

How are you going to convince them that both parents can be the nurturer? And how do you convince them that chastising the child physically and mentally for enjoying time with dad has a diverse effect on the child?

Less time with one parent can in fact be the best thing for the child, but how many of these mothers who are in the limited section of the population will agree with less time with their children?
I think it important to remember that at the basis of Pia's article is that in SOME instances the changes are putting children at risk by forcing time with a parent who is abusive. Rather than role back the clock some fine tuning needs to be done to protect the children genuinly at risk as well as protect the shared care arrangement where it works.

It is the high conflicting families that need the most assistance and laws shouldn't force the child into a situation that puts them in harm for the convenience of one size fits all. Once a family is deemed high conflict it needs to come under a different set of rules that can be withdrawn as the conflict reduces. For example a couple that indicate high conflict following seperation may have settled down the track and can then be reviewed.

This would work both ways - the parent who is the highest conflicter loses time with children until the behaviour stops (time out till the adult grows up?)

When you are swimming down a creek and an eel bites your cheek, that's a Moray.
Jadzia said
This would work both ways - the parent who is the highest conflicter loses time with children until the behaviour stops (time out till the adult grows up?)
That sounds fine except, how do you effectively determine the highest conflicter? If it's based upon anything in common use at present, it will very likely simply be calculated as the father in most cases. They also appear to have ignored recent studies (I can't remember which, I think it might have been the personal violence study conducted by the ABS), that show that children, especially younger children are statistically at most harm of abuse in the household of the single mother and that in the household of the single father they are at least harm or if not on a par with the intact family.
That is where the biggest changes are going to have to be made - in identifying methods to further identify where the problem lies in a relationship. Maybe some sort of scoring process following a series of questionaires taken by ALL members of a family, including grandparents and others where required. When correlating the information the names and genders should be replaced with "Party A" and "Party B" so that it becomes the issues that are interpretated without any preconceptions.

When you are swimming down a creek and an eel bites your cheek, that's a Moray.

I, for some years, have considered that gender should not be disclosed in family law. It would be great if one could turn back time and see how the results of family law decisions would have been impacted if gender were not disclosed.

There again Jadzia, still unless there were substantiation by the way of only considering fact, too often I would guess that the lower conflicter would be the one who could put forward the best show.

Also how would non-disclosure of gender cope with a statement such as "I fear the other parent will rape the child." No gender disclosed, but few would consider that the fear was of the mother committing such an act, thus gender so very likely disclosed.

High Conflict between parents and outcomes for children.

Even in research conducted in a total unbiased and ethical way, a very significant fact remains - The results represent the Most Common position encountered.

Then we take a few more asumptions, again based "Most common", one is DV is perpetrated by men on women, and the other is Abuse is Physical Abuse. Through in Primary Attachment theory and research results that show conflict between parents is detrimental to children.

Throw in a few thousand years of human experience and knowledge, and we might begin to undersatand we have a mess. It is called Family Breakdown.

A few suspicions I have - Which I will pose as questions.

If a family breaks down as the result of conflict and then susequently the childen's relatinship with the Primary/Sole carer mother breaks down for the same reason, does anybody have any suspicions as to the likely cause?

Interestingly, the one set of figures which are probably accurate, is the prevalence of mental health problems among children from broken homes. It is supposedly the result of conflict between the parents. Yet in many cases the so called non-custodial parent has been totaly absent, bit hard to blame them for conflict if they aren't around.

There is also talk of childen's feelings of being abandoned by the absent parent. Recent research by the AIFS indicated that the huge majority of non-residential parents want more time with their children, interestingly, adults, whose parents had separated when they were children reported they wanted more time with their non-residential parent.

Can anybody explain the increases in the number of women being charged with violent crimes? including DV.

As for the model of Primary attachement and susequent relationships, if the primary parental example is incapable of allowing any discussion over their model for parenting, might this not be the reeason the children living with this model cannot form effective relationships when they become adults.

A few other questions -

The increasing prevalence of ADHT and ADD among children - why?

The most common "honest" response to the question "Why" - answer "because I can"

Increased high risk activities among young adults who were "over protected" as children?

Increasng number of young women who become single mothers when it is considered disadvatageous to children to have single mothers who lack the support of a partner?

Increasingly young age at which adolecents become sexually active where Father Absence is a factor?

For me - Shared Parenting is a Reality - Maybe it can be for you too!
Some quite balmy notions discussed above when one gives all rights to the children and none to the adults.
I don't believe that young children have many rights unless granted those by people who support them (apart from basic human). At breakup up all rights are removed from men in general, financial responsibility goes mainly to men, men bare the biggest losses on average (including financial, social, assets, health, community respect, friendships, government support, etc).

The systems was designed to remove rights from men - to put them down. The argument used was "what about the children". It has succeeded. Men have been put down and lost their rights.

Women have benefited. There is no evidence that anyone else has (oh - except the lawyers, social workers, research groups, etc etc).

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
In the classic "arms folded" judgement by FM Fogarty, I find it interesting that he mentions that children have an obligation to participate in access - spends time with.  O_o

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
oneadadc said
Even in research conducted in a total unbiased and ethical way, a very significant fact remains - The results represent the Most Common position encountered.
Well said oneadadc!

I just wanted to highlight that  point in case it gets lost among your other points.

We need to be very careful that we don't apply the most common position to individual situations, then claim to be backed by research.

Research only shows what is most common, not what is so for a particular case.



Much research also only applies verbal facts.

By this I suggest that there is limited proof substantiated.

Many people will respond to questions in their best interest or describing a false reality they have created.

Truth and fact then becomes an estimated percentage figure that reflects social injustice, a way to communicate peoples fears of what may have happened or what may happen.

It then reflects what will be easily digested by society. We believe and are taught mother do no wrong they are nurturers. I received more hidings off mum than I did dad and they were more violent. Yet society tells me to love and respect mums as they are a child's umbilical cord to life.

Dads have to earn respect mums are given respect and we are all part of the problem because we encourage this behaviour.

So when someone asks you a question as a man you are programmed to protect mothers and the concept of in just the same way we are programed to be to tough to go to doctors as they are for sick people.

As Jon expresses we are given the lions share of responsibility and in many cases mum assumes the nurturing responsibility by social resolution or by force. ( my words not Jon's ).

When you look at the system as a whole there is no doubt the system benefits women and this notion is objectionable and outdated but by introducing the rights of the child to interact with the father on a regular basis as their right it also reintroduces the fathers rights and allows fathers to access more time.

I have a feeling if this was introduced as " The rights of the father " it would have turned into a gender orientated battle that would not of helped secure better quality time with the kids but rather higher conflict.

I'm sure men can surrender the spoken battle to raise issues via the child's well being and future prospects in society, plainly said " who care who's right " speculatively if it appears that fathers right or parental rights are being reduced in favour of the child would it not be better to do this and start on an even keel because it also reduces the mothers perceived rights than start a battle on gender issues, perhaps this has crossed the mind of those who be and this is the best solution for effective change ?

There is more social pressure now to fight for attention so perhaps women and men are so highly strung through this social pressure that release is coming from a seething inside and not just lack of constructive parenting.

I'm not an expert these are just rambling thought that go through my head as I read the posts.

I feel sorry for todays youth they appear more lost than we ever where with less understanding, a scary place.
D4E has identified a number of complex issues. One issue for me now is the rights of the child - i don't think its really helpful for children to feel like they can judge their parents - and the courts and other government agencies support them. Its unfair to they child and  demeans the parents.

The fact that its is done routinely and people "seem" to put up with it is irrelevant. Its just plain wrong.

Children are in no position (mentally, intellectually, socially or emotionally) to judge family matters, best parent, responsibilities, step fathers and mothers etc etc.

This constant bleating about rights of children and the children's exposure to those messages (in my view) is directly responsible for the large numbers of people who as they grow up - lack the sorts of values and principles which could help them be more socially effective and less damaged people.

The growing increase of mental illnesses and other problems are directly related to this pressure on children and the REMOVAL of rights from adults in favour of CHILDREN'S RIGHTS by the state.

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
I think that there is a mix of conceptions of what " The Childs Best Interest " can be molded into.

This in itself would cause many to think when a statement is made that the child should be part of the process, this is not always in the best interest of the child.

Decisions in my opinion should be made by parents with the best interests of the child as it's base, this in itself is a paradox as even the base ideas can be shaped and manipulated and a child can be taught to accept these principals even if not in there best interest.

I agree children can be used to influence decisions in the dynamic if one or other parent is not able to bear the responsibility of parenthood, we are after all the parents.

Although I spoke of respect being earned I did not mean it in the sense that the child should automatically judge the parent but if a parent allows behaviour to come to a point where they can not display authority because of the mixed messages they send to the child, it then becomes an environmental issue and the enviroment itself is not conducive to a good behavioral pattern.
The phrase " Making a rod for your back " comes to mind.

The child has a right to be a child but also be respected to their developmental point, one parent babies the other treats as age related and encourages a growing mind. If it's mum who babies " Thats OK kids are like that with their mums " if it's dad " look how he spoils that child " or " how he babies them ".

I have always thought governmental departments go for the soft target that is easily controlled and in many ways this is the male.

Others see children rights in a different way I think I look at it as their rights to safety, love, nurturing and learning good and bad. Not so much putting them in a situation they have to chose or be pressured into taking sides.

Unfortunately this means like many my opinion changes to suit the situation and developmental stages.

If this makes sense ( I agree, well I agree right now tomorrow I may change my mind ) All it needs is both parents to be treated equally and step up to the challenge of parenting.   

Jadzia said
I think it important to remember that at the basis of Pia's article is that in SOME instances the changes are putting children at risk by forcing time with a parent who is abusive. Rather than role back the clock some fine tuning needs to be done to protect the children genuinely at risk as well as protect the shared care arrangement where it works.

It is the high conflicting families that need the most assistance and laws shouldn't force the child into a situation that puts them in harm for the convenience of one size fits all. Once a family is deemed high conflict it needs to come under a different set of rules that can be withdrawn as the conflict reduces. For example a couple that indicate high conflict following separation may have settled down the track and can then be reviewed.

This would work both ways - the parent who is the highest conflicter loses time with children until the behaviour stops (time out till the adult grows up?)
I've probably come in on this thread a little too late, but I see a problem with the somewhat simplistic view that 'once a family is deemed high conflict it needs to come under a different set of rules'. Have you considered that it is in the 'interests of a feminist lawyer' to use creative means to turn a non-hostile separation into a 'high conflict' one for their own selfish purposes? Where I live there is such a 'lawyer' who- has caused countless damage to literally hundreds of separating couples who had an initial intention to separate amicably. Men are labelled as 'psychological and physical abusers' when they usually are loving caring and nurturing fathers. This malpractice leads to a an 'artificial or contrived level of conflict' between the separating couples that otherwise would not exist.

Thankfully many parents come to their senses (or run out of money) and realise what is happening here, ultimately sacking this lawyer to seek a less adversarial outcome and develop a parenting plan via mediation. Unfortunately, there will always be a few parents who have the financial resources and/or will to 'win' and are prepared to 'foster a high level of conflict' on this lawyer's advice safe in the knowledge that the Court is unlikely to agree to an equal shared care arrangement on these grounds. Child suppport where the mother is the payer is also another motivating factor. Oh and did I mention- this Family Lawyer has the enviable reputation of being 'the best' for separating women!

Obviously, one would assume that the level of conflict should be accurately determined by the Family Court Psychologists- but in my anecdotal experience their gender bias against men is reprehensible (are they all women?). I seriously doubt that they are able to make an objective assessment of the true level of conflict between separating parents from the limited interviews in these 'artificial' conflicts. They also have their in-built gender bias and and 'current research' bias from overwhelming bodies of work by pycho gurus the like of Jenn McIntosh, generally attempting to undermine the whole point of the new shared parenting legislation. At the moment, every second counsellor or psychologist I encounter seems to be really pushing the view that 'the legislation was not intended to mean live with 50/50' or '50/50 shared parenting is not always in the best interests of the children'.

I do agree with the last statement, but really this should be the exception rather than the rule. How can we expect 'the system' to filter out this 'noise' from the real high-level conflicts that may be causing real harm to children?

This just highlights how the 'one size fits all' is nothing more than a 'convenience' for processing cases coming before the severely overloaded and ineffective Family Court. It has nothing to do with being 'child-centric' and simply serves to undermine the will of all fathers out there who actually want to parent their children. It is completely ignorant of the fact that in this day and age, most fathers are equally capable and equally as important to the children's development and lives through 'living' with them - not just though 'substantial' - cough - cough care?
Right, actually I didn't even consider that lawyers out there would want to benefit from the conflict, but of course there are unscrupulous people in every profession. A flat rate fee per seperation for the lawyer might cure that tendancy - a parent insisting on continuing the conflict out of malice or whatever would soon be dissauded by the solicitor.

Laws needs to be flexible enough to allow for different situations, but tough enough to dissuade abuse.

When you are swimming down a creek and an eel bites your cheek, that's a Moray.
Jadzia said
Right, actually I didn't even consider that lawyers out there would want to benefit from the conflict.
We must never forget that lawyers are ordinary people- they usually also have everday issues- eg 'divorce', 'sexual abuse', miscarriage, and multiple failures of their own personal relationships, and as such may have their own agenda to satisfy - apart from just being greedy . They can also suffer from mental illnesses - eg 'bipolar disorder'.

Where is there really any mechanism for getting tough on these incorrigible types who foster such conflict at the children's expense. Let's face it, you don't have to be a judge to know how she operates. Her MO is know widely in these region (even other lawyers are aware and disapprove of her techniques). But where are the law makers/Law Society doing anything to monitor and weed them out of the system?
You must advise, in writing, the law society for your state. It is not unusual for multiple complaints to result in the deregistration of a solicitor.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Artemis said
You must advise, in writing, the law society for your state.
I hear you, but most parents aren't likely to spend any more of their precious energy writing to the Law Society- theyr'e probably sick of it and just want to forget about the nasty experience and get on with their lives 'obeying their Orders'.

I do know of at least 2 people that have reported this individual to the law society in writing, but she continues to 'practice' in the same fashion. How many other's have reported her - I don't know?

When does the Law Society take the step of deregistering a lawyer? - has this ever happened in this State? I dont' know. Given the severe lack of lawyers practising Family Law- I suggest the Law Society would be generally reluctant to take this step.

If certain lawyers continue to operate with an MO that is widely acknowledged by the community (ie. by ordinary happily married parents, by separating parents, by mediators and counsellors, and even by the law fraternity themselves)  why is this the only mechanism for curbing their behaviour?

I think there needs to be something else?
Jadzia said
Rather than role back the clock some fine tuning needs to be done to protect the children genuinely at risk as well as protect the shared care arrangement where it works.
I agree; I support that totally; what I say next is intended to be  anti-stereotype, not anti-man and never anti-fathers!
DACC said
Have you considered that it is in the 'interests of a feminist lawyer' to use creative means to turn a non-hostile separation into a 'high conflict' one for their own selfish purposes?
Have you considered that it is in the "interests of a misogynist lawyer" to use creative means to turn a non-hostile separation into a 'high conflict' one for his own selfish purposes?
DACC said
Where I live there is such a 'lawyer' who - has caused countless damage to literally hundreds of separating couples who had an initial intention to separate amicably.
Where I live there is such a 'lawyer' who - has caused countless damage to literally hundreds of separating couples who had an initial intention to separate amicably.
DACC said
Men are labelled as 'psychological and physical abusers' when they usually are loving caring and nurturing fathers.
Women are labeled as 'money gouging, fatherhood denying, liars' when they usually are loving, caring and nurturing mothers.
DACC said
This malpractice leads to a an 'artificial or contrived level of conflict' between the separating couples that otherwise would not exist.
I agree, but the question is, why do people who started out with the intention of separating amicably choose to believe these types of lawyers?

Should we be more careful of our posts here to avoid reinforcing stereotypes of both men and women?

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