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Shared Parenting Rollback: Fed Govt Reports - 2006 Shared Parenting Law Changes

Informations about the reports released by the Attorney-General and the media reporting and responses to those reports.

The federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, released three (3) family law review reports on Thursday 28 January 2010.

Press Conference

To: Media Releases
Subject: MEDIA ALERT - ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROBERT McCLELLAND - 28 JANUARY 2010

Attorney-General

Robert McClelland MP

Press Conference

Thursday 28 January 2010

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), Alan Hayes, will hold a joint press conference to discuss the release of reports examining the operation of the family law system.

What: Press Conference

When: 2.00pm       
          Thursday, 28 January 2010

Where: Conference Room

Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices - Sydney
Level 8
70 Phillip Street
Sydney

NB: Copies of the reports will be made available on an embargoed basis from 12:30pm.

Media Contact: Adam Siddique  0407 473 630


Release of Family Law Reviews

To: Media Releases
Subject: MEDIA RELEASE - ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROBERT McCLELLAND - RELEASE OF FAMILY LAW REVIEWS - 28 JANUARY 2010

Attorney-General

Robert McClelland MP

28 January 2010

Release of Family Law Reviews

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, today released key reports examining the operation of the family law system and how the family law courts deal with cases involving family violence.

The reports provide a comprehensive and objective analysis of the family law system against the aim of providing fair and sustainable solutions for families, while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children, Mr McClelland said.

The Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) looks at the impact of changes which included:

- introducing a presumption of shared parental responsibility into the Family Law Act 1975;

- requiring separating parents to attend family dispute resolution before going to court, with some limited exceptions, including where there were issues relating to family violence; and

- establishing Family Relationship Centres to provide information, advice and assistance to families with relationship difficulties.

The AIFS evaluation finds that the principle of shared parental responsibility is widely supported, although it is often misconstrued as requiring equal shared care time and, according to AIFS, has led to unrealistic expectations among some parents.

The AIFS evaluation reports that the majority of parents in shared care arrangements believed they were working well, but there were concerns where ongoing fear of violence existed.

In addition, there has been a shift away from using the family law courts, with more separated parents using family dispute resolution services and consequently fewer disputes being resolved through litigation.

The Family Courts Violence Review, conducted by Professor Richard Chisholm AM, and Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System, conducted by the Family Law Council, examines the effectiveness of legislation as well as court practices and procedures in cases involving family violence.

Importantly, both the AIFS evaluation and these reviews find that the family law system has some way to go in effectively responding to issues relating to family violence.

The reports highlight issues relating to the screening and handling of family violence as well as legislative provisions that potentially deter the disclosure of allegations.

The Government is committed to improving the family law system so that separated families can effectively access the help they need and disputes can be resolved in the best interests of children.

The Government will carefully consider the findings and recommendations of these reports, as well as other associated research, before outlining its response in due course.

Copies of the reports are available on the Attorney-General's Department website at www.ag.gov.au .

Media Contact: Adam Siddique  0407 473 630

Attachment
Media Release - Attorney-General - Release of Family Law Reviews


Three (3) Family Law Review Reports


1. AIFS Report - Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms - December 2009

Attachment
AIFS Summary Report - Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms - December 2009 (Summary Report)


Attachment
AIFS Full Report - Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms - December 2009 (Full Report)


2. Chisholm Report - Family Courts Violence Review - 27 November 2009

Attachment
Chisholm Report - Family Courts Violence Review - 27 November 2009 (PDF version)


Attachment
Chisholm Report - Family Courts Violence Review - 27 November 2009 (DOC version)


3. FLC - Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System Report - December 2009

Attachment
FLC - Family Violence & Family Law Report - December 2009 (PDF version)


Attachment
FLC - Family Violence & Family Law Report - December 2009 (DOC version)



The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) evaluation report commissioned by the Attorney-General in 2009 has been released (28/1/10).
 
The main report is 5.7MB.  There is a summary.
 
There are five (5) appendices of varying size (the largest is 10MB).

Chapters can be read online and downloaded individually.
 
Download a single zipped file (18.1MB) containing of all the AIFS PDFs (main, summary, appendices).

AIFS Report: Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms

From: AIFS AFRC
Date: 2010/1/28
Subject: New AIFS publication

NEW PUBLICATION ALERT

AFRC subscribers may be interested in the report of the evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms, released today:

In 2006 the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs commissioned the AIFS to conduct an evaluation of the 2006 changes to the Australian family law system.  The report was delivered in December 2009 and released at 2pm today.

Evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms
Rae Kaspiew, Matthew Gray, Ruth Weston, Lawrie Moloney, Kelly Hand, Lixia Qu and the Family Law Evaluation Team

The full and summary reports are available at: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/index.html

Summary report: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/summaryreport.html

Media release: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/media/mediamenu.html

Kind regards,

The AFRC Team
Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse
Australian Institute of Family Studies
Level 20  485 La Trobe St
Melbourne VIC 3000

Tel: 03 9214 7888
Fax: 03 9214 7839
afrc@aifs.gov.au
http://www.aifs.gov.au/afrc

Shakeup for family law courts following Federal review

It is disappointing that an extreme and exceptional case (Darcey Freeman) is being used to justify intended future separation of fathers and children and entitlement for mothers.

Using exceptional and extreme examples and cases is a bad way to create and draft legislation.  It is a strategy/tactic used by activists (in this case feminists, mothers' rights groups, etc) to enact legislation that enables, promotes, facilitates and enforces their ideology (dogma) and agenda.

Shakeup for family law courts following Federal review

The Courier-Mail
28 January 2010, 2:00PM

Shakeup for family law courts following Federal review
By Renee Viellaris

Family law courts are failing children and parents suffering from domestic violence, sparking the Rudd Government to consider a major shakeup.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has pledged to fix the system, and will consider a number of wide-ranging recommendations from a review, which took into account the death Darcey Freeman.

Darcey, 4, was allegedly thrown off Melbourne's West Gate Bridge by her father Arthur Freeman a year ago tomorrow.

The review, released today, recommended courts and staff have an understanding of domestic violence, and a risk assessment is carried out on families, instead of the current system of disputing parents filing documents.

Professor Richard Chisholm, who undertook the evaluation, said there was nothing in the Freeman file that suggested judicial officers had any reason to fear for the safety of Darcey.

Another review which evaluated changes to family law reforms in 2006 and was also released by Mr McClelland today, found that spending more time with one parent after a separation was not always in the best interest of the child.

It said that the changes were confusing to some parents, who wrongly believed a presumption of shared parental responsibility in the Family Law Act meant they had 50-50 access to their children.

However, it said some of the changes were positive, including reducing the rate of some litigation.

Dads 'not entitled to shared parenting'

Herald Sun
28 January 2010, 4:23PM

Dads 'not entitled to shared parenting'
By Caroline Overington

Separated fathers are not entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children, and legislation introduced by the Howard government in 2006 should be amended to make that clear, a report says.

A 300-report by retired family court judge Richard Chisholm recommends five changes to the so-called "shared parenting" law, which he described as a "tangle" that had taken the focus off "what is best for the children," The Australian reports.

The hotly anticipated Chisholm report, which was ordered by Attorney-General Robert McClelland after the shocking death of Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman, who was thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge last year, says the shared parenting law has made it difficult for women to raise allegations of violence in the Family Court system.

A separate, 1000-page report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, also released this afternoon, says the majority of lawyers now believe that the 2006 reforms favour fathers over mothers, and parents over children.

The two reports into shared parenting - plus a third report, by the Family Law Council - were released simultaneously by Mr McClelland this afternoon.

Mr McClelland said the Government would review all reports before making changes but agreed that a false idea had taken hold in the community that fathers were entitled to a 50-50 time split.

"How we address that is what we've now got to decide," he said.

Read more about the released reports atThe Australian.

Separated fathers face access changes after Chisholm report

The Australian
28 January 2010, 3:41PM

Separated fathers face access changes after Chisholm report
By Caroline Overington

Separated fathers are not entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children, and legislation introduced by the Howard government in 2006 should be amended to make that clear.

A 300-report by retired family court judge Richard Chisholm recommends five changes to the so-called "shared parenting" law, which he described as a "tangle" that had taken the focus off "what is best for the children".

The hotly anticipated Chisholm report, which was ordered by Attorney-General Robert McClelland after the shocking death of Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman, who was thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge last year, says the shared parenting law has made it difficult for women to raise allegations of violence in the Family Court system.

A separate, 1000-page report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, also released this afternoon, says the majority of lawyers now believe that the 2006 reforms favour fathers over mothers, and parents over children.

The two reports into shared parenting - plus a third report, by the Family Law Council - were released simultaneously by Mr McClelland this afternoon.

Mr McClelland said the government would review all reports before making changes but agreed that a false idea had taken hold in the community that fathers were entitled to a 50-50 time split.

"How we address that is what we've now got to decide," he said.

The release of the reports comes three years after the Howard government introduced the idea that the care of children should be shared between parents, after divorce.

The shared parenting law was described at the time as the most significant change to family law in Australia since the Family Law Act (1975) was introduced by the Whitlam government.

The law requires the Family Court to presume that a child's best interests are served by having a relationship with both parents after divorce. It also asks the court to consider equal time for parents.

Fathers hailed the move, saying they had too long been cut out of their children's lives, because courts had been biased against them. Figures suggested that one in four children had no contact at all with their father, after divorce.

The laws have come in for fierce criticism from women's groups, and academics, who argue that it may not be in the best interests of children.

The law punishes women who raise allegations of violence that they cannot prove in court, by lumping them with the entire cost of proceedings. All three reports found that women had become reluctant to raise allegations of violence, if they had no proof - such a police report - that violence had occurred.

Family violence report takes aim at 'troublesome' shared parenting laws

Custody laws should make it clearer that separated fathers are not entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children, after the sweeping reforms of 2006 led parents to focus more on their rights instead of their children's needs.
The right for mothers to make false allegations about "family violence" and child sexual abuse, without consequence, is (and will be) the trojan horse used by feminists and mothers' rights activists to undermine equal shared parenting.
Three major reviews of shared parenting laws have urged dramatic changes to the family law system, including a major expansion of the definition of family violence to include economic and emotional abuse, and automatic violence risk assessments in all parenting court cases.

Family violence report takes aim at 'troublesome' shared parenting laws

The Age (Melbourne)
28 January 2010 - 5:25PM

ERROR: A link was posted here (url) but it appears to be a broken link.
Family violence report takes aim at 'troublesome' shared parenting laws
By Misha Schubert

Custody laws should make it clearer that separated fathers are not entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children, after the sweeping reforms of 2006 led parents to focus more on their rights instead of their children's needs.

Three major reviews of shared parenting laws have urged dramatic changes to the family law system, including a major expansion of the definition of family violence to include economic and emotional abuse, and automatic violence risk assessments in all parenting court cases.

In his hard-hitting report on family violence, former judge Richard Chisholm takes aim at the "confusing and troublesome" shared parenting laws which distracted parents from focusing on the child's interests.

Poor drafting of the laws had led many parents to "wrongly assume" the laws meant children should spend equal time with each parent except in cases of violence.

"The tangle of legal technicality that resulted from the 2006 amendments may well have distracted parties and those advising them from focusing on what arrangements are likely to be best for the children," he found.

"It may also have led to the very opposite (of what was) intended, namely the parties thinking about their own entitlements rather than what is best for their children."

Professor Chisholm also blasted the current system of violence notices in the courts - "experience has shown this system is not working" and says because the risk of violence is so common in parenting cases, a risk assessment should be done in every instance.

He also raises concerns that clauses drafted to prevent vexatious claims of violence may deter victims of violence from speaking up about it for fear of punishment or legal disadvantage.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland today released the independent reviews of the reforms enacted by the Howard Government in 2006, with mixed assessments of the system.

A detailed study on the impact of the laws on 28,000 people by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found conflicting evidence on the success of the changes, "with a positive impact in some areas and a less positive impact in others".

There was strong support for the principle of shared care - as distinct from equal custody - although it was in place in only 16 per cent of separated families. Only 7 per cent have equal time arrangements.

The trend to more parents adopting shared care arrangements began before the reforms, but the changes had also encouraged parents to focus more on their own rights and led to a misconstrued belief they were "entitled" to spend equal time with the child.

"Many legal sector professionals said the reforms, negotiations and litigation over parenting arrangements had become more focused on parents rights than children's needs," it concluded.

"A focus on the primacy of children's best interests is difficult to maintain when parents are concerned with what they perceive to be their own rights under the legislation."

Many fathers had also become disillusioned because they believed the new laws "entitled" them to 50-50 time split of custody - rather than the best arrangement for the child.

Yet many legal sector professionals felt the reforms had "favoured fathers over mothers and parents over children" and that the post-reform bargaining dynamics had put mothers "on the back foot".

But the study found little confidence across the system that it was protecting families from violence and child abuse and neglect, and said it had "some way to go" to respond effectively to those challenges.

The third review is the by the Family Law Council, a statutory body of experts advising the government on family law, urged a dramatic widening of the definition of family violence to offer more protection from threatening behaviour.

It urges replacing a "reasonable" fear for one's safety or wellbeing with a detailed list of abuse including economic and emotional hostility - particularly if a child witnesses it.

The council is also advocating a national register of family violence orders and a new system to apply them across state borders, as well as simpler forms to notify the courts of violence.

The Rudd Government is considering its options on reform, but is understood to be wary of moving rapidly on the contentious issues involved in an election year.

But Mr McClelland suggested changes would be pursued in time. "The Government is committed to improving the family law system so that separated families can effectively access the help they need and disputes can be resolved in the best interests of children."

Professor Patrick Parkinson, who helped to design the 2006 changes, hailed the finding that the new laws had resulted in a 22 per cent drop in family law cases going to court.

Shared parenting laws 'misinterpreted'

A review of recent chagnes made to family law has found the number of shared custody arrangements has increased since the reforms.

Audio: Family law reforms disadvantage children from violent families (2MB).

Media; ABC PM - Family law reforms disadvantage children from violent families
ABC PM - Family law reforms disadvantage children from violent families


Transcript appended.

Shared parenting laws 'misinterpreted'

ABC News
28 January 2010

Shared parenting laws 'misinterpreted'
By George Roberts for PM

A review of recent changes made to family law has found the reforms have negatively affected children from violent and abusive backgrounds.

The Federal Government's review of the 2006 reforms outlined significant concerns, finding that children from families with safety concerns were let down badly by the system, and of those, children in shared care came out the worst.

But the Government says it is reluctant to change the new laws, which require judges to consider letting each parent have equal time with their children if there is going to be an order for equal shared parent responsibility.

Instead it is hoping an education campaign can clear up what it says are misunderstandings about what the changes were meant to do.

Professor Alan Hayes is the director of the Institute of Family Studies, the organisation that conducted the review, and he says the developmental implications and impacts of the reforms are problematic.

"For about 4 to 5 per cent of children who are in care arrangements with shared care, there is concern for violence and safety," he said.

"And it doesn't matter what the circumstance is, when children are in unsafe circumstances the outcomes are not good."

Professor Hayes says the new laws have led to some confusion.

"There's misunderstanding of the difference between shared parental responsibility and shared care time - those two things are often rolled together," he said.

"And that leads some people to have a sense of disillusionment, because they start with an assumption of a right to, for example, equal shared care time, and find that that's not in fact the case, that's not the reality of the law.

"And I think that gets in the way of resolution of the issues."

Changes unlikely

Attorney-General Robert McClelland admitted the wording of the legislation could be improved, but said he would instead prefer an education campaign.

"We are now in a situation where, perhaps as a result of misinformation, people have resolved cases where the best interest of the children may not have been regarded as a result of the misunderstanding and misconception as to what the law required, or the outcome that would be achieved if they went to court," he said.

"And our task now is to clarify that. I think it's fair to say that this will probably be the most controversial area in the public domain. It will also be the area where the Government will exercise greatest caution.

"We will be certainly looking at the lighter touch approaches before we will be diving into the deeper waters of wholesale legislative amendments."

Latrobe University child psychologist Associate Professor Jennifer McIntosh says an education campaign on its own is not sufficient.

"I think the findings certainly support the findings of a number of my own studies, that children in shared care are doing particularly poorly when there's a history of safety or violence concerns," she said.

"And I think that we ignore the data at our peril. But I'm not convinced that an education campaign is enough when … we have misleading wording in the legislation.

"And I think the legislation itself needs to be cleaned up concurrently with an education campaign."

Tags: community-and-society, family-and-children, divorce, law-crime-and-justice, family-law, laws, parenting, Australia


Family law reforms disadvantage children from violent families

ABC Radio - PM
28 January 2010

Family law reforms disadvantage children from violent families

SHANE MCLEOD: Recent changes made to family law have been found to negatively affect children from violent and abusive backgrounds.

But the Federal Government has put it down to a misunderstanding of the 2006 reforms and says it's reluctant to change them.

Instead it's hoping an education campaign can clear up any confusion about what the changes were meant to do.

George Roberts reports.

GEORGE ROBERTS: It's taken three years and involved 28,000 Australians.

Now the Federal Government's review of the 2006 family law reforms is in.

The report found that while the system's working for most families, there are significant concerns about the reforms' impact on families and children who are exposed to abuse and violence.

ALAN HAYES: It's a real problem around the developmental implications and impacts. For about 4 to 5 per cent of children who are in care arrangements with shared care, there is concern for violence and safety and it doesn't matter what the circumstance is, when children are in unsafe circumstances the outcomes are not good.

GEORGE ROBERTS: Professor Alan Hayes is the director of the Institute of Family Studies which conducted the review.

The Institute found that children from families with safety concerns were let down badly by the system and of those, children in shared care, came out the worst.

The law requires for judges to consider letting each parent have equal time with their children, if there is going to be an order for equal shared parent responsibility.

But Professor Hayes says this has led to some confusion.

ALAN HAYES: There's misunderstanding of the difference between shared parental responsibility and shared care time and those two things are often rolled together and that leads some people to have a sense of disillusionment because they start with an assumption of a right to for example equal shared care time and find that that's not in fact the case, that's not the reality of the law.

And I think that gets in the way of resolution of the issues.

GEORGE ROBERTS: The Federal Government recognises that the wording of the legislation may have contributed to that.

The Attorney General, Robert McClelland

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: We are now in a situation where perhaps as a result of misinformation people have resolved cases where the best interest of the children may not have been regarded as a result of the misunderstanding and misconception as to what the law required or the outcome that would be achieved if they went to court.

Our task now is to clarify that.

GEORGE ROBERTS: But he says he's reluctant to change the legislation and would instead prefer an education campaign.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: I think it's fair to say that this will probably be the most controversial area in the public domain. It will also be the area where the Government will exercise greatest caution; we will be certainly looking at the lighter touch approaches before we will be diving into the deeper waters of wholesale legislative amendments.

GEORGE ROBERTS: Associate Professor Jennifer McIntosh is a child psychologist from La Trobe University.

JENIFER MCINTOSH: I think the findings certainly support the findings of a number of my own studies that children in shared care are doing particularly poorly when there's a history of safety or violence concerns. And I think that we ignore the data at our peril.

But I'm not convinced that an education campaign is enough when I think that we have, inadvertently we have some misleading wording in the legislation and I think the legislation itself needs to be cleaned up concurrently with an education campaign.

SHANE MCLEOD: La Trobe University Associate Professor Jenifer McIntosh ending that report by George Roberts.

Listen: MP3 - WMA

Children are our top priority (Editorial: The Daily Telegraph)

… the 2006 changes haven't been entirely successful, either. Part of this is due to poor communication over exactly what the changes were intended to deliver. Many believed that the changes would deliver 50-50 time custody splits between parents. It is regrettable that this common misunderstanding has added further tension to already tense circumstances. For the sake of Australia's children, it might be better to aim for the best practical outcome in any sharing arrangement rather than aiming for a perfect outcome that is not within the realms of possibility.

Children are our top priority

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
29 January 2010

Editorial

Children are our top priority

Resolving the issue of child custody in the wake of a divorce or separation is one of the most fraught areas of modern law. From family to family, there is little uniformity.

Each case presents its own difficulties and conflicts. The major concern in any custody arrangement, of course, should be the safety and security of the children involved. And this is at the core of a new study investigating the family law system.

Family law changed four years ago, following pressure from fathers who believed they had been unfairly cut out of their children's lives. In many cases, these fathers had a strong claim. It is very easy to argue that access rights were unfairly withheld under earlier structures.

But the 2006 changes haven't been entirely successful, either. Part of this is due to poor communication over exactly what the changes were intended to deliver.

Many believed that the changes would deliver 50-50 time custody splits between parents. It is regrettable that this common misunderstanding has added further tension to already tense circumstances.

For the sake of Australia's children, it might be better to aim for the best practical outcome in any sharing arrangement rather than aiming for a perfect outcome that is not within the realms of possibility.

Children 'at risk' in shared parenting

It is in the best interests of children to have both parents in their lives. Fathers are protective parents and their involvement in their children's lives can detect problems and abuses at the other household. These reports are part of a concerted rollback of shared parenting to the previous one-size-fits-all mother custody that existed before 2006. The push comes from feminist ALP politicians and mothers' rights activists, who want to advantage mothers at the expense of the fathers. If we cannot have equal shared parenting and custody then the parent who can financially support the children, without expecting handouts from govt and the other parent should be given the first right of refusal for custody. To do otherwise is only to encourage one parent to use the children in order to rob the other parent. It provides and incentive and a reward for them to separate the children from their Dad. It is not in the best interests of the children to have one parent squandering money meant for the children, now or in the future. Money meant for children needs to be spent on the children; there is a need for accountability.

Poll - Friday 29th January 2010

Today's poll:

Should 50-50 shared custody of children be abandoned?

38.33% (837 votes)
61.67% (1,343 votes)
Total votes: 2,180

The poll is closed.


Children 'at risk' in shared parenting

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
29 January 2010

Children 'at risk' in shared parenting
By Xanthe Kleinig

The practice of splitting child custody equally between divorced parents is being questioned after a major study found one in five parents in the arrangement believed it was not working.

An estimated 90,000 Australian children are in shared-care arrangements under a policy introduced by the Howard government with the support of fathers' rights groups.

But the largest study of the family law system, released yesterday, found a presumption of a 50-50 split was putting some children into violent homes.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said yesterday a "misunderstanding" that parents were guaranteed equal time under the law was to blame. "Bush lawyers or pub lawyers are providing advice to people going through the system that is wrong," he said.

"We are now in a situation where people have resolved cases where the best interest of children may have not been regarded."

Family laws introduced in 2006 included a presumption of equal parental responsibility, widely interpreted as an even-time split.

But researchers said yesterday parents had agreed to shared care even when they did not have to. Other parents were disillusioned because they were not granted a perfectly equal arrangement.

And violence was not being addressed in court because of the threat of paying full court costs if the allegations were not proven.

Men's Rights Agency director Sue Price said any shift away from equal time was a "disastrous" return to the old-fashioned notion that fathers didn't count.

"It is not good for children not to have both mum and dad in their life," Ms Price said.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies report, which took three years and surveyed 28,000 people, found about one in 20 children in shared care had parents who reported violence as a risk.

"There are significant concerns around the minority of families where there are safety concerns," institute director Professor Alan Hayes said. Where safety concerns were reported by parents, children suffered but they suffered the most when they were in shared care agreements, he said.

But researchers found "overwhelming" community support for the concept of shared parenting.

Ms Price said violence by women was ignored in the three reports released yesterday.


Comments on this Story

Have Your Say (Closed)

Richard of South Wentworthville Posted at 1:03 AM January 29, 2010
I have been on both sides of the fence in regard to this issue and cannot speak strongly enough of the benifits to the children of shared parenting in all cases where both parents love and care for their children equally. It is every child's right. Sure there are circumstances where it may not be appropriate and these are matters that in most cases are decided by the court resulting in a parenting arrangement that is best in the interests of the children.

Comment 1 of 42


It's only my Opinion of Kurrajong Posted at 1:58 AM January 29, 2010
Typical knee jerk reactions and comments we have come to expect in todays society, resulting in the lifestyles of the majority threatened by the actions of the few. It is a sad and unfortunate fact that some parents(Mums and Dads) are violent towards their children, and that should be addressed by the courts if there is a history of violence or risk of harm to the children, on an individual basis and not as a collective group. I am an single father of an 11 year old daughter who has not and is not at risk of harm, and to now have someone saying shared custody should not be a 50/50 entitlement, I can only ask myself if they have ever been in this position, to experience not coming home to your children every day. So I say pull your head in and let the thousands of single parents enjoy their children whenever they can!

Comment 2 of 42


RMS of Syd Posted at 3:36 AM January 29, 2010
1 in 5 = 20%. What about the other 80%? I suppose the thought's 4 in 5 are irrelevant.

Comment 3 of 42


Rob of Wadalba Posted at 4:53 AM January 29, 2010
Sounds like a lobby group for the "I am not getting as much child support as I used to" mother's group is behind this study.Depends what the question was for the parents to say it is not working.

Comment 4 of 42


Rose of Central Coast Posted at 4:54 AM January 29, 2010
People need to grow up and act like adults. I was a divorced child -it wasn't pretty. And I am a divorced adult. I remained amicable with my Ex and his partner and all means of communication have always been open in "my family". We can ENJOY Christmas together, and celebrate many happy family occasions. Just because a couple don't co-habitate forever under one roof, doesn't mean the kids have to become ammunition. Grow up people!

Comment 5 of 42


Natasha of Sydney Posted at 5:06 AM January 29, 2010
Shared care DOES work, when both parents communicate effectively with each other. Not only does it benefit the children by being able to have both a mother and father figure in their lives, it also relieves the stresses, both emotionally and financially, of being a single parent. If both the parties are willing and 'capable and responsible' parents, what is the issue? Being raised in a single parent environment myself, I wish that I had of had this opportunity as a child. Afterall, we brought these children into this life, and should take responsibility for them, after the breakup of a relationship, even if it was on bad terms. Who is anyone to take away the rights of a child seeing and having quality time with both of their parents?

Comment 6 of 42


BB of Central Coast Posted at 5:10 AM January 29, 2010
Not only is child safety the number one priority, but the question I ask is, "How can a child be raised in a stable family environment when they are, for example, living 4 days a week at mum's place and 3 days a week at dads??" I'm all for both parents being given rights under the correct circumstances, but courts these days don't really take into account ALL past history when making decisions on the childs behalf!! I'm not saying all fathers(and mothers!!) are irresponsible but surely the mediation services & courts could have a better system set up to deal with these issues! I think you would find most children would develop much better in a caring & loving single parent environment than one that is shared and hostile where the child is split living between the two parents.

Comment 7 of 42


Karen Posted at 5:26 AM January 29, 2010
Thank God this is finally being addressed. I do not believe for a minute that it is fair to children to be transferred on a weekly basis to another home. Mum's place, Dad's place - where is their place? Pack it up, FAST

Comment 8 of 42


David Hughes of Newport South Wales Posted at 6:04 AM January 29, 2010
If only 1 in 5 parents think the 50/50 parenting is not working, that means that 80% of parents think it IS working. In other words the vast majority are in favour of it - so let's go with the majority vote. Perhaps the other 20% could be encouraged to attend parenting classes to learn what the job is all about.

Comment 9 of 42


Lucky Father of Brisbane Posted at 6:17 AM January 29, 2010
Can only speak from my own experience. Didn't have a 50/50 split at first, indeed it took six months of legal action to see my four year old on a regular basis. After things settled down over the years, she wanted to live with me on a permanent basis. I resisted because it was important I felt for her to maintain a relationship with her mother. It reached a stage where a 50/50 was mutually arranged and because of reasonable proximity, this worked rather well. It also brought us, the estranged parents, into more regular contact with each other because I had more time with my daughter to discuss issues affecting all of us as a unit. We are all now trialling living under the same roof and touch wood it is working out fairly well in the initial stages - but a long way to go. Like any arrangement 50/50 splits need working on, but doesn't any of them?

Comment 10 of 42


js of sydney Posted at 6:18 AM January 29, 2010
if i had shared custody after my divorce i would be putting my boys on a plane to VIC every after week..i was not prepared to do that so i had FULL custody. the father was allowed to call them when ever he wished and flew up every fortnight weekend but that was all.no way was i going to allow him to take them to another state.as it was he brain washed them with garbage even in the short time he had them.they are old enough now to know the truth and no longer take on board the rubbish he tells them

Comment 11 of 42


Miracle of Central Coast Posted at 6:39 AM January 29, 2010
Shared 50/50 custody isn't about the kids but the parents… that is what they want not the kids. When couples divorce children are treated as a commodity becuase lets face it… if mum and dad actually acted like adults where the child was the priority… they wouldn't end up in court then would they? The only 50/50 'shared' custody I have ever seen work is where the parents retain the family home and one member moved out… every two weeks the parents swap homes… not the kid…therfore the child has the same bed, same toys…just instead of finding mum in the kitchen it can be dad….these parents drew up house rules everyone had to follow. These parent actually put their children's wellbeing before their own…it is the only 50/50 arrangement I have ever seen work. Finanically it also beneifted both parents as they retained equal shares in the family home and they had a small 'bachelor' pad for their two weeks 'off'. Their aim eventually when the child was old enough they could then sell the home but the child 'retained' their childhood and had nothing but happy memories.

Comment 12 of 42


Craig Hickman of Tinonee Posted at 6:59 AM January 29, 2010
Here we go again, another try at distancing loving fathers from their children. and kicking dads in the guts. So many cases where the woman makes un-substantiated allegations of abuse runs riot in womans groups, with false accusations, and attempts at AVO's to get the men out of their lives, brainwashing the kids to hate their dad ( parental Alienation syndrom) and by doing this the woman can apply for MORE welfare. its a money making racket, on womens behalf, and the stupid govenment bends over backwards to screw what ever is left from broken hearted dads, whom generaly loses his home, supa, kids and his dignaty. Women and lawyers are the ONLY winners.

Comment 13 of 42


Annette of Central Coast Posted at 7:08 AM January 29, 2010
There are 2 parents of a child NOT JUST ONE. Children need their dad as much as they need their mum. As for abuse, I can note many cases where mum is the abuser. Emotional and psychological abuse leave long lasting impacts, change who you are and change who you were meant to be.

Comment 14 of 42


chrissy1309 of Sydney Posted at 7:29 AM January 29, 2010
Shared parenting is all about parental rights and not about the kids. Kids are expected to not just tolerate but enjoy having their lives riped into two and live half at any time. God forbid they forget their security blanket at their mother's place, because they wont see it for 4 days. What I want to know is how all those children, particularly girls, who were deprived of their mothers as a result of the finding by the Courts of so called (and fraudulent) parental alienation syndrome at the urging of rabid men's groups when all the mother's were trying to do is protect themselves from violence, are supposed to learn how to be good mothers and fathers themselves? The girls have been taught by the Courts that once in a violent relationship there is no escape and the boys have been taught that as long as you deny everything and attack the victim legally as well, you can be the ultimate winner.

Comment 15 of 42


simon coutts-bain of central coast nsw Posted at 7:39 AM January 29, 2010
Shared parenting should be the norm for every situation unless it can be proved without a doubt that it is not in the best interest of the children. "best interest of the children" is in its self an interesting term that is often used as an argument. I wonder how many people are thinking of the "best interest of the children" when they decide to engage in activities & affairs that ultimately lead to a dissolution of a marriage and the resulting dual custody situations. It's very convenient to hide behind these types of arguments after the fact. Im sure that if you were to survey any other % custody arrangement at least "1 in 5" would also say it is not working. The fact is that split custody is preferred by no one, even those that decide to end a relationship. People ultimately want to have a "normal" family that stays together but many individuals are far to ignorant & selfish to take a good hard look at them selves in their relationship and do the work that is required to maintain a family relationship. It is far to easy and trendy to blame the other and end a relationship, ultimately it is the children that suffer the most.The best thing that you can offer your child is love.

Comment 16 of 42


george Posted at 7:39 AM January 29, 2010
I am a grandparent just going through all of this. It is very difficult experience. My daughter has done some appaling things, non of them violent, but very abusive in effect and to the detriment of my grand child. Both parents need to accept that the child is not the person that should be penalised and that the parents also accept that they were the ones that made all of the decisions that lead to the child being born and the split in the relationship. There are consequences and usually emotional ones. Solicitors who abuse the process or fail to provide proper and fair legal advice should be removed from practicing law.

Comment 17 of 42


Yes, of course… Posted at 7:40 AM January 29, 2010
Yes, yes, the do-gooders always know whats best for your kids. That is what is wrong with the world these days.

Comment 18 of 42


bill smith of Sydney Posted at 7:49 AM January 29, 2010
"the old-fashioned notion that fathers didn't count". How ironic that men have to get a woman advocate to get any hearing from this hating, grim, politically-correct institutionalised hell for fathers.

Comment 19 of 42


Jo Law of Sydney Posted at 8:04 AM January 29, 2010
How interesting that the article fails to mention what children think of this arrangement. I imagine that if children were able to stay in the home, and parents were the ones who shuttled back and forth every week many parents would suddenly decide they were not such big fans of shared care after all.

Comment 20 of 42


jennifer of Illawarra Posted at 8:11 AM January 29, 2010
FINALLY! Someone has the guts to say what most parents already know. Instead of dumping all children into the one basket creat a new system that actually spends time with each family and then decides whats best. I needed new court orders made up when my daughter started school, purley so the school had an up to date copy and was told we needed to consider shared care. Sounds great in theory but my daughters father has chossen to live over an hour away so in reality not practical at all.

Comment 21 of 42


Greg of Orange Posted at 8:32 AM January 29, 2010
Please note here they said "found a presumption of a 50-50 split was putting some children into violent homes." The empasis on some not all. As for teh survey I am a seperated parents and not one person I know has been approached in this survey and that is well over 100 I have contacted, so begs to ask where this data came from

Comment 22 of 42


laurie of central coast Posted at 8:41 AM January 29, 2010
Shared custody of children is a great idea, on paper, but in a breakup there is always a reason, and while it may not be violence or alcohol related, seldom does it mean that the warring parties are friends, and more often than not the children then become the pawns, in a power game played out by the adults..

Comment 23 of 42


Just a Dad of Real World Posted at 8:52 AM January 29, 2010
What about the violent mothers?

Comment 24 of 42


greg of sutherland Posted at 9:07 AM January 29, 2010
And in this 'study' what proof, other than the allegation of the parent, was provided. Otherwise we have a bunch preparing a report with data baed merrely on accusations of violence and unfortunately many parents would claim such jsut to get back at the other partner. i am not saying there is not an issue but knee jerk respones for jerk polticians (lbor, especially McClelland) are not necessarily the answer

Comment 25 of 42


Pinkpoly Posted at 9:39 AM January 29, 2010
The Howard government purely created this to attract votes and to look like they are being fair and equitable. With shared care we are purely keeping the family court system from over conjestion and intimidating parents. In essence we are raising a GYPSY GENERATION! Mum's home, Dad's home, Granparent's home, before and after school care etc. These poor kids are living out of a back pack and really don't have a home of their own! And then we wonder what is going wrong with our youth? Let's start looking at their home first. Let me ask this, which adult would like living between 2 houses ongoing? I used to travel alot with work and found it hard living between home and hotel homes, so how can these poor children cope??? Wake up Australia not everyone is the same and 50-50 isn't the solution to everything!

Comment 26 of 42


Ana of Liverpool Posted at 10:14 AM January 29, 2010
I'm not remotely interested in Shared Care with my ex. Parents whether they are mothers or fathers don't have the right to order the other person around when they left, not caring about their kids or what it would be like for them growing up in a broken home. People who abandon animals get charged, yet parents get away with it.

Comment 27 of 42


Timbo of Windsor Posted at 10:19 AM January 29, 2010
I am a single father with major care of my kids 75/25. My X chose to move away two hours drive. I would much prefer that she had stayed locally and had 50/50 time. I KNOW my kids would prefer that because I have asked them. Yes there are difficulties during breakup but I think the new law makes people look seriously at what is best for their kids which is 50/50 shared physical custody. It is also true to say that the old system encouraged women to make false accusations (violence, AVO's etc) against the X husband to maximize their dividend from the family asset pool and then screw the X husband for more Child Support $$. It is very easy to do as the court system is biased and the police have been trained to assume the male is the perpetrator. Most couples actually sort things out amicably with only about 5% of couples ending up in court. I regularly read the Family Court transcripts and it is noteworthy that it is only the most difficult of cases that end up in litigation and under the current law Family Court judges seem to be more willing to hear the husbands case, and of the cases that I have read under the post 2006 legislation Judges have been most fair in their deliberations.

Comment 28 of 42


Had a gutful of the family court Posted at 10:49 AM January 29, 2010
Every case should be treated individually. When are parents going to listen to the children and their best interests as opposed to the laws that now promote the best interests of the parents and their so called rights for access. When will the parents get it, you don't own children just because of a biological input- its not about them! Someone needs to protect the rights of a child, love, listen and respect them.

Comment 29 of 42


Andrew - happliy married for 20 years of Gold Coast Posted at 11:11 AM January 29, 2010
Perhaps more time, money and energy needs to be spent on preventing the marriage break up in the first place. That way, children have an ongoing secure safe relationship with both parents under the same roof. I am tired of hearing that parents are splitting up, divorcing or separating. This an indication that people have not thought through the whole issue before getting married and then the same issue about the responsibility of having children. Yes it is BLOODY HARD! No one said it would be a walk in the park. Simply throwing one relationship away to try another, then another and so on, achieves nothing except broken relationships, broken people and broken children. We need to work at our relationships the same way we work at work, or work around the house. It takes time, effort, open communication, and a willingness to acknowledge that you may have made a mistake. Now that is a scary issue for some. We can't be like that! I am always right and she's wrong! CRAP!!! A heated argument achieves nothing. A cool headed discussion can mend relationships and bring you closer together. For the kids, let's try to love our partner and forgive their mistakes - we make them too!

Comment 30 of 42


Peter van de Voorde of Port Macquarie Posted at 11:19 AM January 29, 2010
1. Has anyone compiling the studies for the AG, provided the government with firm statistics on any child actually having been removed from a violent or abusive parent, following that parent being awarded equal shared parenting time since 2006???? 2. If there were any, were these the result of that parent having received a fair trail in the criminal justice system, where due process of law and harsh penalties for perjury apply, or on the basis of hearsay in the Family Court????

Comment 31 of 42


Helen G of Sydney Posted at 11:53 AM January 29, 2010
I've noticed that it tends to be women who don't like shared parenting. My husband has 3 children from his previous marriage and his ex (a social worker!) was quite happy to lay down the rules and made it very difficult for him to spend time with the kids but if he was one day late with child support look out! Children are often used as pawns and bargaining tools and its sickening. Mum's should not be given the automatic right to decide what's best for the child as it takes two to tango. Yes, you gave birth but why do you believe your love is deeper and better? There are a lot of men out there who miss their children dearly and are being manipulated by the ex. If the so-called adults could behave like adults I'm sure there would be a better outcome for the childen. Does anyone ever ask the children?

Comment 32 of 42


goliver of sydney Posted at 12:39 PM January 29, 2010
Chrissy 1309, "rabid mens groups" hmmmmm. Whilst your circumstances may warrant your totally biased statement I know of extremely vindictive women who do all they can to ensure that their ex's don't get a look in with the kids and I also know of women who have hit their male ex and would have got away with it if it had not happened in front of me (by the way I am a woman). So there are two sides to every story love and women are not the only ones that experience violence.

Comment 33 of 42


Mike Posted at 12:45 PM January 29, 2010
If no payment is available as a "package" with kids, how many mums (and dads) would "fight" for the custody?

Comment 34 of 42


JT of Syd Posted at 1:00 PM January 29, 2010
So shared care does work ! only one in five parents who do it don't like it and 19 children out of twenty don't have violence in the home? mothers who try to stop shared care do it because they want the child support and government kick backs and to avoid work and to say 'look poor me'

Comment 35 of 42


sally - concerned of sydney Posted at 1:12 PM January 29, 2010
I think the comments made by TImbo are naieve - perhpas you have not been involved with police of late - getting an AVO is harder than drawing teeth - i have friends who have been run down, and phycially ioated whi could not get an avo - and it has been th emen in these cases using the child support to milk their professional working ex's. perhpas we shoudl focus on fixing the system than blaming women Timbo. I am sorry you have isues with the behaviour of your ex - but perhpas you shoudl not lable others because of your own experiences. 50:50 does not work for the children! access is a different matter but moving house constantly is disruptive to performance at school and also to identity in children.

Comment 36 of 42


all for shared care Posted at 1:24 PM January 29, 2010
It's not possible to look at the family court system as one and decide on a one size fits all rule for all families. My partner and I would love 50/50 shared parenting of his son, but his mother refuses. There is no history of abuse, she refuses to mediate and we were told the bill of taking it to court would run into the thousands, something we can't afford. My partner's son has repeatedly stated that he would like to spend more time at his dads, but his mum continuously uses him as a pawn and has even stated that my partner only wanted more time so she had to pay child support instead of the other way around. How can THIS be in the best interest of the child. It's time for parents to think about what thier kids want. If they were growing up in a two parent family, both parents would have shared parental rights, so why should they be forced to miss out on a basic human right - the love of both parents.

Comment 37 of 42


Glenn of Mountains Posted at 1:43 PM January 29, 2010
Pinkpoly Always one in the crowd who likes to blame John Howard for thier own issues. You living in hotels has nothing to do with children living in a 50-50 family environment. Why should the mother be the one whom has the kids more in her home then the father? What right does a female parent have that a male parent cant have? Take your Howard hate into a political story not a parenting story.

Comment 38 of 42


tam of Canberra Posted at 1:46 PM January 29, 2010
bit iffy on this i have only seen my daughter twice in the last 4 years yet i have sole custody and my ex really was violent.. a child abduction that isnt a family court issue but a police issue but everyone passes the buck i think the issues of the family court need to be investigated alot deeper an cases taken on as individual not be made a war against the sexes and putting kids in terrifying traumatic situations….

Comment 39 of 42


Anton of Realityland Posted at 1:52 PM January 29, 2010
One would hope that the COURT allows fairness and equality and overall TRUTH to be used. The lies in the old regime of family law are nothing more than a violation of human rights. Ana of Liverpool highlights exactly why these laws should stay - the kids are not a possession but have a right - a human right - to both parents. It isnt about the vindictiveness and overall financial gain of the (often) single mother.

Comment 40 of 42


Tania Bailey of Queanbeyan Posted at 2:45 PM January 29, 2010
Somebody needs to start listening to what the children want, thats what this is all about, not the adults!!!

Comment 41 of 42


Manumit of Melbourne Posted at 2:48 PM January 29, 2010
It is in the best interests of children to have both parents in their lives. Fathers are protective parents and their involvement in their children's lives can detect problems and abuses at the other household. These reports are part of a concerted rollback of shared parenting to the previous one-size-fits-all mother custody that existed before 2006. The push comes from feminist ALP politicians and mothers' rights activists, who want to advantage mothers at the expense of the fathers. If we cannot have equal shared parenting and custody then the parent who can financially support the children, without expecting handouts from govt and the other parent should be given the first right of refusal for custody. To do otherwise is only to encourage one parent to use the children in order to rob the other parent. It provides and incentive and a reward for them to separate the children from their Dad. It is not in the best interests of the children to have one parent squandering money meant for the children, now or in the future. Money meant for children needs to be spent on the children; there is a need for accountability.

Comment 42 of 42

Shared custody laws 'fail' children

Shared parenting after separation would no longer be the focus of family law under controversial changes recommended in a government-commissioned report. The author, Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge, says that ''equal or substantial'' time with each parent should be just one among many possible options Family Court judges should consider in deciding where children live.

Shared custody laws 'fail' children

The Sydney Morning Herald
29 January 2010

Shared custody laws 'fail' children
By Adele Horin

Shared parenting after separation would no longer be the focus of family law under controversial changes recommended in a government-commissioned report.

The author, Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge, says that ''equal or substantial'' time with each parent should be just one among many possible options Family Court judges should consider in deciding where children live.

Under changes introduced by the Howard government in 2006, shared care is singled out as the option judges must consider.

The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, commissioned the report into family law and violence after four-year-old Darcey Freeman was thrown off a bridge in Melbourne last year. Her father has pleaded not guilty to murder.

It says: ''Instead of assuming that equal or near-equal time would normally be in the child's interests, [the proposed revision] emphasises the need to consider all options.''

The Chisholm report was one of three Mr McClelland released yesterday that highlighted widespread confusion over the right to shared care, and the failure of the family law system to protect children in violent families.

Professor Chisholm's recommended reforms were described as offering ''real and significant improvements'' by the original architect of the 2006 changes, Patrick Parkinson, professor of law at the University of Sydney.

But Mr McClelland signalled he did not favour changing the law and preferred a ''light touch'' with a focus on education.

''I am indicating caution and a reluctance to adopt wholesale changes to legislation  [rather] to look at what needs to be done to improve understanding in the community,'' he said.

Professor Chisholm found the changes have encouraged some parents to think more about their own entitlements rather than what is best for their children.

A broader evaluation of the reforms by the Australian Institute of Family Studies also found the system had ''some way to go'' for the one-in-four women and one-in-six men involved in separations who have serious concerns about violence.

However, based on the experiences of 28,000 people, including 10,000 parents affected by the changes, it found the reforms had worked well for the majority.

Significantly, it found a 22 per cent decline in the numbers proceeding to court on children's matters. Most separating couples were happy with the new network of Family Relationship Centres.

The evaluation found parents whose matters were settled in court were more likely to end up with equal or near-equal care than other separating parents. Only 16 per cent of children in separated families spend equal or substantial time with both parents, but that rises to 23 per cent of cases settled in court.

For the minority of parents with shared care, 20 per cent had safety concerns.

The institute pointed to the confusion caused by the act linking two separate notions - a presumption of shared parental responsibility for major decisions in a child's life, and shared care. Judges need only consider shared care. But much time was wasted, and disillusionment caused, especially to men, who wrongly expected 50:50 care.

The Chisholm review proposes changes to make parents less fearful of raising allegations of violence, including removing the provision for penalties for false allegations or statements, and amending the provision under which parents whose claims about a violent ex-partner are not believed may jeopardise their own case.

Call to end shared custody: Chisholm report

A report commissioned by the Rudd government recommends major changes to the controversial shared parenting law introduced by former prime minister John Howard, saying it has put women and children at risk.

Call to end shared custody: Chisholm report

The Australian
29 January 2010 12:00AM

Call to end shared custody: Chisholm report
By Caroline Overington

A report commissioned by the Rudd government recommends major changes to the controversial shared parenting law introduced by former prime minister John Howard, saying it has put women and children at risk.

The report by retired Family Court judge Richard Chisholm says the law has also set fathers up to believe they are entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children after divorce, when this was never the parliament's intention, nor part of the law. The report into family law was ordered by Attorney-General Robert McClelland, in response to the shocking death of four-year-old Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman, who was thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge one year ago.

Her father, Arthur Freeman, is now facing a murder charge.

In launching the report yesterday, Mr McClelland said it was "motivated at least in part by the very tragic events, in the case of Darcey Freeman".

It has previously been reported that Darcey's mother was too frightened to raise allegations of violence in the Family Court, lest she be considered an "unfriendly" parent determined to interrupt the relationship between the children and their father.

She ultimately agreed to a custody arrangement that gave her former husband access to all three of their children.

It is alleged that Mr Freeman threw Darcey from the bridge on her first day of school.

Mr McClelland said it was clear from the Chisholm report, and from two other reviews of the shared parenting law, also released yesterday, that women had become reluctant to raise allegations of violence, in part because the court can now punish them by hitting them with the entire bill for proceedings if the allegations are not proved.

The court is also thought to take a dim view of women who raise allegations of violence that are not substantiated, describing them as "unfriendly".

Professor Chisholm said many fathers believed the shared parenting laws entitled them to a 50-50 time split with their children, when in fact that was never part of the Howard government's changes.

Mr McClelland agreed that "misunderstanding needed to be addressed". "The question is whether you need legislation to get that information out," Mr McClelland said. The government would be looking at the "lighter touch" approach of public education, before diving into the "deeper waters of legislative change".

The Chisholm report angered men's rights groups, who believe shared parenting is working well for the vast majority of couples that enter into the arrangement.

That view is supported by a separate 400-page Australian Institute of Family Studies review of family law, also released yesterday, which found overwhelming public support for the idea of shared parenting. More than 80 per cent of people surveyed said they supported shared parenting.

More than 70 per cent of couples who were in a shared parenting arrangement even said it was working well.

Mr McClelland agreed that there had been some positive developments from the 2006 changes, chiefly that fathers no longer assumed that they had to accept an 80-20 time split with their children after divorce.

"We've moved past that, but we are now in a situation where … the misconception (that each parent is entitled to a 50-50 time split) has taken hold," Mr McClelland said.

"Our task now is to clarify that. The focus has to be on the best interests of the children, and not the rights of parents."

Professor Chisholm's report says legislative change is necessary to make it clear that judges won't apply a one-size-fits-all approach to custody and will consider "what is best for the child".

Former Family Court chief justice Alistair Nicholson said the recommendations were "absolutely the way I would have gone". "The fault lies with the legislation," he said. "I have great sympathy for the judges trying to interpret it.

"Absolutely, yes, it must be up to judges and magistrates to decide what is best for each child in each case."

Family Court of Australia Chief Justice Diana Bryant and Acting Chief Federal Magistrate Michael Baumann said they, too, had identified "some ways in which the (system) could be improved or were not working as well as was anticipated".

Dads the winners under shared parenting: lawyers

The Australian
29 January 2010 12:00AM

Dads the winners under shared parenting: lawyers
By Caroline Overington

A majority of family court lawyers believe shared parenting laws introduced by the Howard government in 2006 favour fathers over mothers and parents over children.

They say there has been a reduction in the average property settlement awarded to mothers since the shared parenting law came into force, and they also believe fathers are trying to negotiate more time with their children to lower the amount they have to pay in child support.

These findings are included in a 400-page review of the changes to the Family Law Act by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. It says a clear majority of parents in shared-care arrangements believe the reforms are "working well" for them and their children. On the other hand, only a minority of children (16 per cent) are in shared-care arrangements.

The odds of getting "shared care" (which doesn't mean a 50-50 time split, but substantial time with the children) is higher for parents who go to court, with 23 per cent of cases resulting in a shared-care outcome.

One in five parents, however, have safety concerns, in particular that children are being forced into shared-care relationships with violent partners.

The report also finds the Family Relationship Centres, which separating parents must now attend before going to the Family Court, have been a success. A clear majority of parents who tried to resolve their differences in the centres said it "worked well" and most sorted out their arrangements without using lawyers or the courts.

"A significant proportion of separated parents are able to sort out their post-separation arrangements with minimal engagement with the formal system," the report says.

It says the "shared parental responsibility" provision of the shared parenting legislation was often "misunderstood".

Joint parenting must stay: men's rights group

The reality is that 'angry women's groups' are the pushing the current attempt to rollback of the shared parenting changes.

Four principal motives are:

1. Pride: They want to be perceived as good mothers (and hence good women and good human beings) and to do that they believe they need to retain full custody of the children.

2. Company: They want to keep children with them to stave off loneliness; a loneliness they are only too willing to impose on the children's fathers.

3. Power and control: They want to be able to control the lives of childrens' fathers. This is associated with revenge and punishment.

4. Financial: They know that that they get more 'child support' money the more time they have the children. Accordingly, they want to limit the time the children spend with fathers in order to maximise the amount of money they can extract from those fathers.

Joint parenting must stay: men's rights group

The Australian
29 January 2010 12:00AM

Joint parenting must stay: men's rights group
By Caroline Overington

Men's rights groups will fight any planned rollback of the shared parenting laws, saying reports released yesterday prove an overwhelming majority of Australians support the right of children to know both their parents after divorce.

A 1,000-page review of the Howard government's so-called shared parenting law, conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, found a reduction in the number of cases going to the Family Court since shared parenting was introduced in 2006.

It also found an increase in the number of parents willing to settle custody arrangements outside the court system, and it found children and parents were happy with shared care.

Shared care doesn't mean a 50-50 time split, but it does mean the child spends "substantial time" with each parent.

The review, which took two years and involved 28,000 people, including 15,000 parents, found conflict between parents led to "worse outcomes" for children who lived in shared-care arrangements. But for most people it worked well.

Shared care advocate Michael Green QC said the report was "terrific".

"It shows 80 per cent of parents are co-operating, sorting things out for themselves." He said the report made it clear "no change to the law is necessary".

The AIFS report was one of three into family law released yesterday, and it made no recommendations, with the authors saying they were not asked to provide any.

Another report, by retired Family Court judge Richard Chisholm, recommends several changes to the law, saying judges needed to be able to decide each case on its merits.

Executive director of the Shared Parenting Council, Edward Dabrowski, said his organisation would resist any law change that would wind back the concept of shared parenting.

How family law is failing our children

Family law courts are failing children and parents suffering from domestic violence, spurring the Rudd Government to consider a major shake-up. Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has pledged to fix the system. He will consider a number of wide-ranging recommendations from a review, which took into account the death of Darcey Freeman.

How family law is failing our children

The Advertiser (Adelaide)
29 January 2010

How family law is failing our children
By Renee Viellaris

Family law courts are failing children and parents suffering from domestic violence, spurring the Rudd Government to consider a major shake-up.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has pledged to fix the system.

He will consider a number of wide-ranging recommendations from a review, which took into account the death of Darcey Freeman.

Darcey, 4, was allegedly thrown off Melbourne's West Gate Bridge by her father Arthur Freeman a year ago today.

The review, released yesterday, recommended courts and staff have an understanding of domestic violence, and a risk assessment is carried out on families, instead of the current system of parents engaged in a dispute filing documents.

Professor Richard Chisholm, who undertook the evaluation, said there was nothing in the Freeman file that suggested judicial officers had any reason to fear for the safety of Darcey.

Another review, which evaluated changes to family law reforms in 2006 and was also released by Mr McClelland, found that spending more time with one parent after a separation was not always in the best interests of the child.

It said that the changes were confusing to some parents, who wrongly believed a presumption of shared parental responsibility in the Family Law Act meant they had 50-50 access to their children.

"Many people seem to have wrongly assumed that the amendments created a presumption that children should spend equal time with each parent . . . the presumption of equal parental responsibility has been wrongly taken to mean that there was also a presumption favouring children spending equal time with each parent," retired Family Court judge Professor Chisholm found.

The result of misunderstandings has often been bitterness, resentment, and sometimes violence.

It has also led the family law system to focus on resolving problems between the parents rather than always looking to the best interest of the children involved.

The changes to the Family Law Act were designed to give fathers more power and greater consideration in post-break-up custody arrangements. Separated fathers had long complained that they had been discriminated against by courts which had displayed a bias towards mothers.

But it may be that the bias has swung too far the other way.

Justice Chisholm also found violence was frequent in family breakdowns.

However, the report said some of the changes were positive, including reducing the rate of some litigation.

- with Mark Kenny

Dads face tough fight for kids under proposed new custody laws

Separated fathers could find it harder to secure 50-50 custody of their children, and women should be more easily able to raise concerns about violence, under proposed changes to the nation's custody laws. The Family Court may also be asked to apply a new "triage" system to more quickly assess urgent risks relating to violence, relocation, substance abuse or mental-health issues. Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Government was considering the suggestions after he released three reports, which looked at hot-button family-law issues such as shared parenting and violence.

Dads face tough fight for kids under proposed new custody laws

Herald Sun (Melbourne)
29 January 2010

Dads face tough fight for kids under proposed new custody laws
By Phillip Hudson

Separated fathers could find it harder to secure 50-50 custody of their children, and women should be more easily able to raise concerns about violence, under proposed changes to the nation's custody laws.

The Family Court may also be asked to apply a new "triage" system to more quickly assess urgent risks relating to violence, relocation, substance abuse or mental-health issues.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Government was considering the suggestions after he released three reports, which looked at hot-button family-law issues such as shared parenting and violence.

Three years ago the Howard government introduced shared parenting rules, which required the Family Court to set arrangements where both parents could be involved in their children's lives after a divorce.

The court was also urged to consider 50-50 equal time for parents instead of an automatic tendency to give one parent, usually the mother, full time custody, with the father having access at alternative weekends and half the school holidays.

But while backing shared parenting, yesterday's reviews said in some cases parents, lawyers and judges had misunderstood the idea and wrongly believed it meant equal custody.

It said with hindsight some of the changes "have proved confusing and troublesome" and the resulting "tangle of legal technicality" had distracted the focus from what would be best for the children.

"Many people seem to have wrongly assumed that the amendments created a presumption that children should spend equal time with each parent (except in cases of violence or abuse)," said the 275-page report by retired judge Richard Chisholm.

The Government has also been urged to soften the law that deters parents, usually women, from making allegations about violent behaviour by the other parent.

At present, if the claim cannot be proven, the parent making the allegation can have legal costs awarded against them.

While violence is not a factor in most cases before the court, the Government has been told two-thirds of separated mothers and half of separated fathers say the other parent had emotionally abused them.

One-quarter of mums and 16 per cent of dads said they had been physically hurt and one-in-five had safety concerns about the other parent who still had contact with the child.

Prof Chisholm suggested a triage system be created to all cases "to identify any risk that requires urgent attention".

He said it could assess violence, problems stemming from mental illness or serious substance abuse and proposed relocation by one parent.

The Government will also look at widening the definition of violence to include threatening behaviour and create a national register of family violence orders.

Parenting, not politics (Editorial: The Australian)

The government now has the research (including a third report released yesterday by the Family Law Council) to decide what, if any, changes are needed. The focus must indeed be on the children, but the opportunity for both men and women to develop loving relationships with their offspring must not be ignored.

Parenting, not politics

The Australian
29 January 2010

Editorial

Parenting, not politics

The government needs to be cautious on Family Law

Attorney-General Robert McClelland says he wants community debate on recommendations that would wind back shared parenting laws. Let's hope he is prepared to truly listen up. This is an issue demanding careful assessment based on data - and broad community wishes - rather than any abrupt return to past practices that minimise the role of separated and divorced fathers in the care of their children.

There is pressure, some of it from the Attorney-General's frontbench colleagues, for a change to the Family Law reforms introduced by the Howard government in 2006. But while there are clearly cases where violent and abusive fathers must be denied access, this minority effect ought not undermine the principle of equal parental responsibility.

The 2006 reforms were a long-overdue move to redress the gender imbalance underlying the assumption made by the Family Court that children were better off spending most time with their mothers. The changes have been controversial, not only because the Family Court has sometimes struggled to resolve conflicting claims from parents living in different locations or in determining the risk of violence, but also because their scope has been misunderstood.

Two reports released yesterday - the four-month review by Richard Chisholm and the three-year assessment by the Australian Institute of Family Studies - make that clear. Both argue that the Howard changes were never about a 50-50 split in the amount of time spent by each parent with their children, but a 50-50 sharing of responsibility. This clarification is important, but the government must now decide whether it needs to revisit the legislation to spell this out, as suggested by Professor Chisholm. He also wants amendments to "bring the focus back to what is best for the children", an emphasis shared by the institute in its almost 400-page report, which acknowledges the family law system "has some way to go" in dealing with violence and associated issues. The institute offers only broad suggestions about the way forward but its comprehensive review of the operation of the law means there is now a solid body of data on which to base policy development.

Family law is a fraught area: almost 20 per cent of separated parents, for example, say their relationship is "full of conflict or fearful". It is scarcely surprising that in this hothouse environment, shared parenting has been hotly contested by people at both ends of the political spectrum and from both mothers and fathers - even though only 16 per cent of children from separated families are in shared care-time arrangements.

The government now has the research (including a third report released yesterday by the Family Law Council) to decide what, if any, changes are needed. The focus must indeed be on the children, but the opportunity for both men and women to develop loving relationships with their offspring must not be ignored.

Custody law reform called for

Sweeping changes to custody laws have fostered wrong assumptions and prompted parents to focus on their rights ahead of children's needs, reviews of shared parenting laws have found. The reviews say the laws, changed in 2006, need to spell out to separated fathers that they have no right to a 50-50 time split with their children. They urge changes to the family law system, including an expansion of the definition of family violence to include economic and emotional abuse, and introducing automatic violence risk assessments in all court cases involving parenting.

Custody law reform called for

The Age (Melbourne)
29 January 2010

Custody law reform called for
By Misha Schubert

Sweeping changes to custody laws have fostered wrong assumptions and prompted parents to focus on their rights ahead of children's needs, reviews of shared parenting laws have found.

The reviews say the laws, changed in 2006, need to spell out to separated fathers that they have no right to a 50-50 time split with their children.

They urge changes to the family law system, including an expansion of the definition of family violence to include economic and emotional abuse, and introducing automatic violence risk assessments in all court cases involving parenting.

In a hard-hitting report on family violence, former judge Richard Chisholm takes aim at the "confusing and troublesome" shared parenting laws, which he says have distracted parents from the best arrangement for their children.

Poor drafting of the laws had led many parents to "wrongly assume" the law meant children should spend equal time with each parent except in cases of violence, when it merely asked courts to consider if equal time was a good idea.

"The tangle of legal technicality that resulted from the 2006 amendments may well have distracted parties and those advising them from focusing on what arrangements are likely to be best for the children," he found. "It may also have led to the very opposite [of what was] intended, namely the parties thinking about their own entitlements rather than what is best for their children."

Professor Chisholm blasts the system of violence notices in the courts, saying "experience has shown this system is not working" and, because the risk of violence is common in parenting cases, a risk assessment should be done in every case.

He raises fears that clauses drafted to prevent vexatious claims of violence may deter victims from speaking up.

Releasing the reports yesterday, federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland agreed there was a misconception fathers were entitled to a 50-50 time split. "How we address that is what we've now got to decide," he said.

A study of the impact of the laws on 28,000 people by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found conflicting evidence on the success of the changes. There was strong support for the principle of shared care, as distinct from equal custody, although it was in place in only 16 per cent of separated families. Only 7 per cent had equal-time arrangements.

The trend to more parents adopting shared care began before the changes, but the changes had encouraged parents to focus more on their own rights and led to a misconstrued belief they were entitled to equal time with the child.

"A focus on the primacy of children's best interests is difficult to maintain when parents are concerned with what they perceive to be their own rights under the legislation."

Many fathers were disillusioned because they believed the new laws entitled them to a 50-50 custody split. The study found little confidence across the system that it was protecting families from violence, child abuse and neglect.

A third review, by the Family Law Council, a statutory body advising the Government on family law, urged a widening of the definition of family violence to offer more protection from threatening behaviour.

It urges replacing a "reasonable" fear for one's safety or wellbeing with a detailed list of abuse including economic and emotional hostility - particularly if a child witnesses it.

The council also advocates a national register of family violence orders and a new system to apply them across state borders.

The Government is considering changes but is believed to be wary of moving rapidly on the contentious issues involved in an election year. Mr McClelland suggested changes would be pursued in time.

Professor Patrick Parkinson, who helped design the 2006 changes, hailed the finding they had led to a 22 per cent drop in family law cases going to court.

AG Robert McClelland - Interview Transcript - ABC Radio AM (29/1/10)

Attorney-General

Robert McClelland MP

Interview

ABC Radio AM with Lyndal Curtis

Friday 29 January 2010

Family Law Reviews

Download an MP3 of this interview or listen here:

Media; ABC Radio - AM 29/1/10 - Family Law Reviews
ABC Radio - AM 29/1/10 - Family Law Reviews


BRENDAN TREMBATH:  The Federal Attorney-General is moving to put the interests of children back at the centre of disputes over custody.

Robert McClelland has released a number of reports into the problems in the family law system, including how family violence is dealt with and a misunderstanding that shared parenting means a 50-50 split in custody. He's promising an education campaign, but is also prepared to change the law if needed.

Mr McClelland has told chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis, the assumption about 50-50 custody has affected the way people approach the courts.

ROBERT McCLELLAND:  It's being skewed in that people have approached it from the point of view of parents' rights, whereas consistently, the intention in family law has been what's in the best interests of the child.  

So, it has been the case, the evidence shows in these reports that, regrettably, there have been instances where people have resolved cases, settled cases, on the assumption that the law intends an equal split of time.

LYNDAL CURTIS:  How then do you fix it?  Does it require a change to the law?

McCLELLAND:  Well, there was different advice there.  

The Family Law Council suggested an education program may be adequate, and, certainly, the reports themselves, highlight what the correct law is, that while the community supports and the law states the desirability of shared involvement or shared parental responsibility, the law isn't that the court presumes that there will be a sharing of time, and getting that message out will be first and foremost.

CURTIS:  The report's also raised concerns about the way the courts deal with problems of family violence and allegations of family violence. Has enough been done or does there need to be legal change there?

McCLELLAND:  On the facts, it's not occurring and that is an area of concern.

CURTIS:  Not occurring in what way?  It's not being treated as seriously as it should be, there are disincentives to people raising allegations of violence?

McCLELLAND:  There are three suggested disincentives.  

One is a technical document called a Form 4 that needs to be filed before the issue is activated.  But there is also a potential cost disincentive if the allegation is made and not sustained. There is also a provision that considers where the parent has been a cooperative parent as a factor considered by the court.

CURTIS:  Is a result of this that children are going back into violent homes?

McCLELLAND:  The answer to that is, potentially, and it needs to be addressed.

CURTIS:  There will be some people who will be disappointed that the idea, the possibility of 50-50 custody seems to be being moved away from.  How do you address their concerns that their rights will be adequately addressed?

McCLELLAND:  Well, I'm going to say up front, that the rights that the legislation and the Parliament is most concerned with are the rights of children.  

While the Parliament has, and continues to reflect the community desire that there be shared parental responsibility, at the end of the day, it is for judges and magistrates to decide what is in the interests of each specific child who is in front of them in each specific case.

It' is not for Parliament or any interest group to declare presumptions as to what is in the best interests of each and every child.  

The best interest of each and every child needs to be considered in the context of that specific child, and that will be the focus of any reforms.

TREMBATH:  The Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, speaking to Lyndal Curtis.

[Ends]

Audio: MP3 - WMA

The vilification of fatherhood

In Australia, the former human Rights Commissioner, Brian Burdekin, has reported a 500-600 per cent increase in sexual abuse of girls in families where the adult male was not the natural father.
The anti-father hysterical reporting continued, with journalist Caroline Overton's determined crusade to roll back the 2006 shared parenting laws. These bipartisan laws were supposed to allow separated fathers the opportunity to be regarded as equal parents before the court. What a novel idea! A report which has just come out, evaluating reforms to Australia's family law system, says the shared parental responsibility amendment was never intended to mean shared custody. How ridiculous!

The vilification of fatherhood

On Line Opinion
29 January 2010

The vilification of fatherhood
By Warwick Marsh

From a fatherhood point of view it's been an interesting week. I try not to read the newspapers much but my news addiction gets the better of me sometimes. When Thoreau, the famous philosopher, was asked whether he wanted the newspaper delivered he replied nonchalantly, "I have seen a newspaper". Generally newspapers seem to be a mixture of bad news, occasional bits of truth and loads of exaggeration and barefaced lies. Songwriter Larry Norman, in regards to the media, sang, "They exaggerate the issues while they shove them down our throats". This week was no exception.

On Wednesday of this week I noticed a story about our new Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. The story sprang out of a Women's Weekly interview with him. The headline read, "Abbott confirms women's worst fears. Julia Gillard said, "Australian women don't want to be told what to do by Tony Abbott" . Pro porn academic Catharine Lumby said Mr Abbott's comments harked back to an era when women "were shamed and blamed for having a normal sexual appetite and behaviour".

Mind you, this is from a woman who in teaching sexual ethics to footballers, with a history of abusing women, raised the argument in promotion of group sex. Not something that footballers need to hear at the best of times. These comments were just some of the deadly cinders of the media firestorm.

My interest was aroused. What exactly did Tony Abbott, father of three beautiful teenage girls, say to get him into so much trouble? Women's Weekly was obviously laughing all the way to the bank with all the extra sales from such a controversial article. I poured over the 10-page special, looking for Mr Abbott's wild pronouncements, but all I could find was great support for marriage and family and excellent advice for his daughters. On the question of sex before marriage, Tony Abbott said, "I would say to my daughters, if they were to ask the question, I would say  it is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don't give it to someone lightly, that is what I would say".

What, pray tell, is wrong with this comment? How could an intelligent woman like our Deputy Prime Minister suddenly declare that this confirms the worst fears of Australian women? Any Australian father, or mother for that matter, with half a brain and half a heart would say exactly the same thing. As Brandis rightly pointed out, Julia Gillard has no children, nor is she a father, and could not possibly imagine how much care and love a father has for his daughters. Nor could she understand how important a father's love and protective care is for their healthy psychosexual development. She hasn't read the facts!

Quoting from the Facts of Fatherlessness (PDF 747KB):

- Studies from many different cultures have found that girls raised without fathers are more like to be sexually active, and to start early sexual activity. Father-deprived girls "show precocious sexual interest, derogation of masculinity and males, and poor ability to maintain sexual and emotional adjustment with one male".

- A US study found that girls who grow up without fathers were "53 per cent more likely to marry as teenagers, 111 per cent more likely to have children as teenagers, 164 per cent more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92 per cent more likely to dissolve their own marriages."

- New Zealand research has found that the absence of a father is a major factor in the early onset of puberty and teenage pregnancy. Dr Bruce Ellis, Psychologist in Sexual Development at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch found that one of the most important factors in determining early menarche is the father: "There seems to be something special about the role of fathers in regulating daughters' sexual development".

- A British study found that girls brought up by lone parents were twice as likely to leave home by the age of 18 as the daughters of intact homes; were three times as likely to be cohabiting by the age of 20; and almost three times as likely to have a birth out of wedlock.

In Australia, the former human Rights Commissioner, Brian Burdekin, has reported a 500-600 per cent increase in sexual abuse of girls in families where the adult male was not the natural father.

The anti-father hysterical reporting continued, with journalist Caroline Overton's determined crusade to roll back the 2006 shared parenting laws. These bipartisan laws were supposed to allow separated fathers the opportunity to be regarded as equal parents before the court. What a novel idea! A report which has just come out, evaluating reforms to Australia's family law system, says the shared parental responsibility amendment was never intended to mean shared custody. How ridiculous!

As someone who briefed our parliamentarians, on both sides, on the need for a presumption of shared parenting in the lead up to the 2006 changes, that is exactly what they were supposed to mean. But let's not let the truth get in the way of a good story. Even Mr McClelland, the Attorney General, has joined her crusade. He asserted on ABCs PM, that the shared parental responsibility amendments have been widely misinterpreted.

It looks like we are about to return to the dark ages of the one-size-fits-all policy of sole custody, which is code for mother-only custody, and brings a massive increase in fatherlessness, greater levels of sexual abuse of our daughters and higher rates of fatalities for our children.

Many of the strongly feminised politicians, academics and journalists are willing, with hearts full of malice, to condemn good fathers such as Tony Abbott, who simply wants the best for his daughters. These same commentators are willing to encourage a malicious family law court to re-interpret the will of the people and the parliament to exclude even more children from the love and protective care that is afforded by their father's presence in their lives.

Tony Abbott's support for marriage and the natural family, as recorded in the Women's Weekly, should be applauded because it is the best way to protect our children. Authors Fagan and Hanks put it well, "Fatal abuse, serious abuse and neglect are lowest in households with married biological parents and highest in households in which the biological mother co-habits with someone who is not the parent". Never has the Women's Weekly made so much sense.

Family laws could put kids in danger

Quote: The reluctance of some parents to report domestic violence in bitter custody battles could mean some children are returning to violent homes, Attorney-General Robert McClelland says.

MISQuote: The willingness of some parents to falsely allege domestic violence in bitter custody battles could mean some children are not returning to loving and caring homes, Attorney-General Robert McClelland says.

Coment: I'd like to see my 22-year-old daughter write a report card on the family court's decision to award custody to her mother 20 years ago, despite my submissions regarding the incidence and history of child abuse within that household. It was made clear to me that I would never win custody, simply because I was the father. I had no money. I had no support and I ran a serious risk of provoking my ex-wife to the point where she could simply claim that I was an abusive parent, thereby ensuring LEGALLY that I would never have access to my daughter again. No proof needed. Furthermore, we are gender-biased when it comes to our view of domestic violence. For example, we barely flinch at the sight of a mother smacking her child across the back of the head and yet, we are horrified at the sight of a father smacking his child on the back-side. Sexual abuse is also regarded as solely a male crime, when in fact that is far from the case. Only half of this problem is being illuminated, thanks to vested interests, media, politics and culture. Consequently, the family court all too often amounts to little more than a blind elephant in a china shop.

Family laws could put kids in danger

ABC News
29 January 2010

Family laws could put kids in danger
By Online political correspondent Emma Rodgers

The reluctance of some parents to report domestic violence in bitter custody battles could mean some children are returning to violent homes, Attorney-General Robert McClelland says.

A report commissioned by the Federal Government into family and shared parenting laws says several barriers prevent parents raising allegations of violence in the home, for fear they could be seen by the courts as uncooperative.

Disincentives to report violence include a financial penalty if the allegations are not proved and the potential for a parent to be deemed "unfriendly" by the court.

When asked on AM today if the disincentives meant children could be at risk of being exposed to further danger, Attorney-General Robert McClelland replied: "The answer to that is, potentially, and it needs to be addressed."

"There has been a fear reported that the allegations of violence may not be raised in the apprehension that the court may say, 'You're not being a cooperative parent'."

The review has also found that the shared parenting laws have been misinterpreted, and were never meant to give a 50-50 custody split to each parent.

The review's findings are likely to anger some fathers' rights groups who have previously complained that fathers do not get awarded enough time with their children in custody decisions.

But Mr McClelland says the laws are about the rights of the child, not the parents' desires.

"It's not for Parliament or any interest group to declare presumptions as to what is in the best interests of each and every child," he said.

"While the Parliament has and continues to reflect the community desire that there be shared parental responsibility, at the end of the day it is for judges and magistrates to decide."

The Government is now considering its response to the review, but may not go as far as to make legislative changes to the shared parenting laws.

"The Family Law Council suggested an education program may be adequate, and certainly the reports themselves highlight what the correct law is. The correct law … isn't that the court presumes that there will be a sharing of time. Getting that message out will be first and foremost," Mr McClelland said.

The review found that while most of the parents involved in shared parenting arrangements were happy with the way they were working, there were concerns for those who were at risk of ongoing violence.

It also found that the family law system has "some way to go" in effectively responding to allegations of violence.

Tags: family-and-children, divorce, government-and-politics, federal-government, family-law, Australia, act


Comments (44)

Comments for this story are closed, but you can still have your say.

Peter C: 29 Jan 2010 9:25:39am

While many children and their parents are happy with a shared parenting arrangement, it is not always the case. As this is very clearly about the rights of the child, surely the child has the right to have access to the father without fear of violence in the majority of cases. Where the father has a new partner, there is far less chance of the partner being violent towards the child than there is if the mother has a new partner. It has been shown that defacto male partners are often involved in violent child abuse, sometimes resulting in death. Care must be taken so that there is not an assumption that all men are child abusers. Women are just as likely to abuse a child emotionally as men are more likely to abuse physically. Each case must be assessed individually, with the best interests of the child as the core decider.


qq: 29 Jan 2010 9:55:03am

I wonder what the "rights of the child" really means.

On the surface some may suggest that the child is an individual and deserves the protection of the law as would an adult. When referring to child/parent relations, this right of the child implies the parent is not supreme in the raising of that child and in fact the law of the day is. I find this curious…

If the parent is not encouraged and empowered to take full responsibility for the child then effectively all children are subjects of the State - a rather unpleasant concept when you look at the inability of the State to take care of anything.


qq: 29 Jan 2010 10:28:26am

It is somewhat odd that the nuclear family has become such an institution that the breakdown of it requires a State body to intervene. Have we gone completely mad ?

Lets have the smaller communities take better care of each other and then these cronies sitting behind desks writing policy could instead go home and spend time with their own children.

I have come to the conclusion that marriage is an institution controlled not by the two parties but by the clumsy and mostly dysfunctional systems we call government. Marriage is more like running a business than it is about having a loving relationship.

Anyone got any better ideas ?

I like free love and community living. It's got to be better for everyone.


SarahGreene: 29 Jan 2010 10:04:16am

Women are not "just as likely" to abuse a child emotionally. Please provide evidence for your assertion.
Men who abuse physically also abuse emotionally and psychologically. The psychological damage as a result of living in fear of physical abuse is significant and should not be underestimated.

Male violence is the primary cause of death and injury for women aged between 15-45. Abuse is a common occurrence, not an anomaly.

However I do agree that the interests of the child is the most important consideration :-)


qq: 29 Jan 2010 10:21:03am

Sarah, i think you are wrong… the parents are the most important consideration.. if you put the children first they will never be okay.

We lived in a very confused time… people who think children and the law are able to raise the next generation are deeply misguided.


MeAgain: 29 Jan 2010 10:56:20am

Better check your stats and don't expect our media to tell you the truth. According to the US Justice Department, around 40% of spousal murders are committed by women. Mothers are more likely to kill their own children than fathers and by the way, women are FAR more likely to indulge in emotional abuse than men. If you like reading, get yourself a book called "Lip Service" (the myth of female virtue in love, sex and friendship) by Kate Fillion. Eye opening and exposes the incredibly covert and damaging nature of female behaviour. Remember the saying, "A man might kill you, but a woman will make you kill yourself".


T: 29 Jan 2010 11:36:01am

Read the following from "Crime and Justice bullitin: Trends in Homicide " NO. 21 (from 1968 to the 90s in Australia):
85% of murderers are male, and are likely to be single or divorced. The female murderers are more likely to be married or in a defacto relationship and suffer from abuse from their partner which is why they wind up knocking him off.Both parents are just as likely to kill children : mother 47.4% Father 52.6%.


Misha: 29 Jan 2010 10:42:19am

and just because you are male don't be naive enough to think that all laws are pitted against you when in fact its the opposite. If you guys have it soooo bad…then how is it in 2010 a father can walk out on a 4mth old baby, disappear from child's life for 3 years, give only the bare minimum in child support and only because the law says he must, spend his time and money a drunk and god knows what else, and the court, upon father's shady return still say he has equal rights to the child? When god knows what damage and real harm could be done to the child…. that's in the interests of the child? No Interests of the mother? hell no….. the father? looks like it…


newcat: 29 Jan 2010 9:30:25am

I know a few people who have 50/50 split child custody. some are week about and some are split weeks three days on week four the next. In a couple of these cases parents live in different areas varying between 30 minutes to an hour and half apart. the school attended is usually on the doorstep of only one parent. whilst I agree that father's need to have more than the fortnightly weekend i am wondering what the long term impact is on the children in these sorts of arrangements. I now in a couple of these arrangements the children aren't allowed to play sport either at all or on the one of the parents custody days as it is disruptive to be unreliable or just not feasible distance wise or one parent doesn't want to spend their time on this. it impacts children socially as well children may not be allowed to spend time with friends due to the same issues or just 'this is my time with you'.

there are no easy answers but i think until children stop being used as pawns and ammunition between parents divorce is going to have major social and emotional impact on a child's development. this impacts not only on them but on society as a whole as people. In the case of violent homes no one should be put in a position in which they can't report abuse and instead of being victimised the incident should investigated and the children monitored where the abuse can't be proven just to make sure that everything is OK.


rob1966: 29 Jan 2010 9:56:06am

Unfortunately, all too often during divorce proceedings one partner (usually the woman) will make unsubstantiated claims of abuse by the other parent. I know of two such instances myself.

The ensuing investigation can have a very detrimental effect on the other parent (not least because access to the children is usually restricted while the investigation is on-going), as well as the children.


qq: 29 Jan 2010 10:15:37am

newcat, i expect these are reasonable comments from quite a simplified view on the subject.

The question around abuse is the level and frequency and the expectation from society. What was acceptable 20 years ago may not be now, what is okay in your suburb might not be in mine, what is good for the kids next door may be abuse for my children. I suspect trying to define abuse and contextualize it is an almost impossible task - and so instead we get a few social workers to decide where the boundary will be and that becomes the standard. But it doesnt work.

I don't avoid abusing my children because of what the law or a social worker might think or do to me. I manage my parenting within a hugely complex set of boundaries which I have developed from early years from thousands of experiences. For someone to come into my house and tell me i am not doing the right thing could not be more ridiculous.

Children as a subject of law have become far too litigious. The child does not exist in a complete fashion without its parents (natural or otherwise) and parents should not be constrained through fear of the law.

Parents who have serious trouble with their children should be given help, not have the book thrown at them.


katie: 29 Jan 2010 9:35:50am

No doubt a major thing pulling it back is the number of false allegations, having worked as a psych in a program specifically for children who have suffered abuse and neglect, the number of solicitors who refer the children of divorce clients for counseling for child abuse and then proceeded to subpoena the files for court is disgusting it accounted for about 50% of our referrals. Generally speaking most appeared to be false allegations; so whilst the current system is not optimal, one wonders what effect taking away these penalties for false allegations would be.


Stepmum: 29 Jan 2010 9:47:09am

Unfortunately the terrain of family law is one where the intractability of human nature drastically reduces the perfectibility of the system.

No matter what happens, nobody is EVER going to have faith and confidence in the family law system, because while adjustments and rules are continually made to try to address the extremes of ex-couple and family behaviour, it is then inevitable that such changes in turn impinge on the wellbeing of and fair outcomes for those in less extreme circumstances.

So just as these specific rules were originally put into place to discourage the trivial and strategic accusations of violence that were undoubtedly being made in a very small proportion of family law cases, so they may now be acting to prevent full and free reporting of genuine complaints of violence.

Neither outcome is acceptable. And we can't stop trying to find a better balance, even where it will never be satisfactory. That's the rule of law for you.

There is simply no magic balance, no fair apex at which everyone's rights and interests and concerns can be balanced.

As a stepmother whose partner is current engaged in family court negotiations and as a former solicitor myself, all we can do is encourage former spouses, where safe and viable, to remain outside the family court system and use alternative dispute resolution procedures to create more personalised outcomes that work for them.


angela: 29 Jan 2010 9:53:21am

I work in community services sector and have seen first hand the impact of the family law changes on vulnerable children living with violence. I am NOT talking about the bulk of arrangements where separating partners do manage to sort out their problems, but there is still a significant minority of families where the govt should step back and review the effects of the laws.
It is absolutely my experience that parents who allege violent and abusive behaviours struggle to get believed . You hear comments from police and even family workers that "they are just making it up" to stop shared parenting. There are many instances where the parent making the allegations is pressured into accepting shared arrangements , only to see harm done to the child. This is not a gender issue and I wish the dads groups would rein in their anger about their own personal experiences and take a more child-focussed look at how the changes have impacted on children growing up with violent and abusive parents.


Maccers: 29 Jan 2010 9:56:51am

Family law is always difficult….and it really should be, as families (even the best) are never simple.

What should be absolutely undeniable is that in these instances, the child's interests and rights are of supreme importance: not the mother's or the father's rights.

Domestic violence, whether it be physical, emotional or psychological abuse, is absolutely devestating for a child, profoundly affecting their entire future. While as a society we should aim to protect the innocent against false claims, the reality here is that the one with the most to lose is the child. Any disincentive to report abuse needs fixing.

The reality needs to be taken into account that while statistically fathers are overrepresented in cases of actual domestic abuse, mothers and step parents can also abuse. If only the concerns of my partner's father had been taken seriously during his custody hearing, my partner might not have been beaten, abused, and subsequently screwed up his education and mental health for all those years.

If only my grandmother's concerns had been listened to, she would have been able to avoid my mother being left in their father's abusive 'care.'


Ravensclaw: 29 Jan 2010 9:57:30am

It is interesting to see that yet again the Australian Labor Party has decided to put extreme feminism back into their hip pocket and centre stage.

Are Australian men and principled Australian women so foolish to think this is where it will end. The men hating movement (which dominates equal rights movement) are extreme in their views and in the early 90's when men were virtually powerless in family law and constantly vilified in the family court, were still trying to suck men dry.

Except with very young children, and issues of (domestic) violence, both parents need to start with equal positions of power when it comes the welfare of their children. In this modern day it is discriminatory and illogical to always assume that the mother is the better parent.

It is in a child's interest to spend quality and substantive time with both parents who separate.

Most parents (both men and women) are good parents. Both parents deserve the right to be assumed innocent of of wrongdoing when it comes to a child's custody, and both parents deserve the right to have equal say in parenting decisions, and equal power when determining custody.

With that said children should not be in environments of where a parent subjects them to illicit drug culture, violence or manipulation. And that is irrespective of the gender of the parent(s).

The Australian government should show some common sense in family law matters. Government should be attentive and be aware of minority organisations fueled by hatred, bigotry and prejudiced views, and who cherry pick and distort statistical data.

I pity children who have a custodial parent who would deny a non custodial parent quality and substantive time with their children.


Misha: 29 Jan 2010 10:47:03am

ooh play the violin a bit more. It is people like you who make kids suffer. Its not about what "you" or what "men" want. Its all about what is in the best interests of the child..100%

You may be a great father no doubt…but put the interests of the child first…wholistically and into the long term…and you'll usually see 50/50 splits hurt the child socially, emotionally and in all ways


katie: 29 Jan 2010 11:05:32am

What violin playing? Seems to me Ravensclaw made a fairly valid argument that could have been made by a female or male (seems to be no reference to being a male).

I would not give much credence to the statistics on domestic violence perpetrators these days with those collecting the statistics often representing minority advocacy groups (Ie biased data), and no doubt a fair degree of overreporting in one gender and underreporting in the other.


Meredith: 29 Jan 2010 11:19:20am

"…and you'll usually see 50/50 splits hurt the child socially, emotionally and in all ways…"

Certainly not the case here.

My daughter spends alternate weeks with her dad and me. Granted I only moved 10 minutes away from the former marital home.

No change in school, no change in sport or other extra curricular activities, one very happy and secure child.

It DOES work when both parents have the child's welfare at heart, and aren't focused on making each other's life hell.

My daughter has now developed a very close relationship with her father, as she spends more time with him now than when we were married.

Sadly, we do appear to be in the minority if my solicitor's comments were anything to go by when drawing up consent orders.


John: 29 Jan 2010 11:32:37am

Hi Misha, should the 'split' (or rather share arrangements) if you don't agree with 50/50 be that a child may be with a father say 80%of the time and a mother 20%?

Please don't belittle people making a point by suggesting they 'play the violin more'… this is possibly the most fraught and emotional social question there is, its not for dismissive tags like that


NATO: 29 Jan 2010 11:35:40am

I don't agree with this at all. unless one of the parties involved is abusive, neglectful etc how could being raised by both parents be detrimental for the child's development?

So many families these days go through divorce's or separate that it would hardly be socially out of the ordinary. Believe it or not Misha but there are plenty of people raised in non nuclear families (children raised by grandparents, gay and lesbian couples, singe parents, defacto relationships etc) that go on to lead successful fulfilling lives.

The family unit as we know it is changing. we aren't all perfect and the changing family unit is a reflection of that.


shayne: 29 Jan 2010 11:37:07am

"…and you'll usually see 50/50 splits hurt the child socially, emotionally and in all ways"

rubbish. where is the evidence of this? almost guaranteed however both male and female children will suffer from limited exposure to the father/mother figure.

for example, the experience a young girl has based on how she and other women are treated by a good father/husband will shape her expectations of how a man is suppose to treat women.

I'm sure a feminist on the other hand might not agree with that, and figure men are just not up to the task.


John D: 29 Jan 2010 11:38:58am

….Its not about what "you" or what "men" want….

Misha, you appear to be a feminist… My reply to the above sentence

….It's not about what "you" or what "WOMEN" want….


Ravensclaw: 29 Jan 2010 11:44:36am

Misha

The following is clearly not in the best interests of the children when their parents are separating

1. Their father being vilified and falsely accused of domestic violence in the courts.

2. Their mother sledging their father in front of them.

3. Their mother denying their father access to them out of spite.

4. Their father receiving a very inequitable share of their parents net assets.

5. When the mother is a danger to the child, it becomes a titanic and lengthy legal battle for the father to be awarded custody.

How often to the above points happen now, and compare that to how often they occurred in the early 90's.


Frances: 29 Jan 2010 9:58:44am

When men feel put out when a woman ends an unsatisfactory relationship, usually for very good reasons, and especially if there is another male involved they relatiate in many unproductive and unfair ways including emotional and financial manipulation, as well as actual physical violence. These acts of revenge usually impact the child as well as the female but men seem not to care about that, as long as the woman suffers in some way.


Reeper: 29 Jan 2010 10:22:28am

You forget the old adage '…….like a woman scorned'. Frances has responded with a straight out of the book commentary which clearly states because Mr X sought revenge after his spouse betrayed him, all betrayed men will seek revenge….. I think Frances needs to look outside of her own experience and harden up to the fact that men aren't the cause of all problems.


qq: 29 Jan 2010 10:32:28am

That's right Frances… its the result of that man (in his eyes) failing to be a man. it is happening more and more and there will be a lot more horrible outcomes i imagine as a result.

Clearly the present concept of nuclear family does not work. The only people who dispute this is the Christian dogmatics and the capitalists who make money from its dysfunction. If we had more community living then we would need less housing, less energy, less income and we would be much happier.


Tired Father: 29 Jan 2010 10:07:25am

I'd like to see my 22-year-old daughter write a report card on the family court's decision to award custody to her mother 20 years ago, despite my submissions regarding the incidence and history of child abuse within that household. It was made clear to me that I would never win custody, simply because I was the father. I had no money. I had no support and I ran a serious risk of provoking my ex-wife to the point where she could simply claim that I was an abusive parent, thereby ensuring LEGALLY that I would never have access to my daughter again. No proof needed. Furthermore, we are gender-biased when it comes to our view of domestic violence. For example, we barely flinch at the sight of a mother smacking her child across the back of the head and yet, we are horrified at the sight of a father smacking his child on the back-side. Sexual abuse is also regarded as solely a male crime, when in fact that is far from the case. Only half of this problem is being illuminated, thanks to vested interests, media, politics and culture. Consequently, the family court all too often amounts to little more than a blind elephant in a china shop.


Andrea: 29 Jan 2010 10:17:47am

I know of all too many women who stay in abusive relationships to protect their children. They are so fearful of their husbands having unsupervised custody of their children that they see staying a better option. They never leave their children alone with their husbands and live a terrible life. The abuse is so hard to prove, especially if it is sexual against very young children. I even know of a case where a male partner had spent time in jail for domestic violence against the mother being given unsupervised access to their children after he was released. I know that not all fathers are abusive, but the laws need to be amended to protect the families of those that are. Members of fathers rights groups are delusional if they think the current system is fair on children, and are doing children across Australia an injustice by protecting fathers that abuse their wives or children.


GDB: 29 Jan 2010 10:20:09am

Frances, your view is the very reason the law was changed in the first place. Why should women's rights be more important than children's rights or men's rights?


Luc: 29 Jan 2010 10:21:10am

No form of violence should be tolerated, domestic or otherwise, and any allegation should be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Whatever action is necessary should be taken to eliminate risks of violence to children. However, I am not convinced that there are serious disincentives to reporting domestic violence of the level and kind this report suggests, and I am aware that there can, in some circumstances, be significant incentives to make allegations of violence. I recently appealed a decision of the Child Support Agency to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. When I received a bundle of documents from the CSA as part of the review process, I was shocked to discover transcripts of telephone discussions between CSA officers and my ex-wife, in which she made very vague and absolutely false allegations of "a history of domestic violence". The CSA did not refer this allegation to the police, the family court, or the Department of Child Protection. It was never investigated. On the contrary, the CSA officer explicitly agreed to keep the allegation secret. On the basis of the false allegation the CSA agreed to take actions favourable to my ex-wife without requiring her to make applications she would otherwise have been required to make. The end result was that my ex-wife obtained significant (although temporary) financial advantage by making a false allegation, but because it was never investigated, any potential risk to the children was never addressed. Domestic violence is violence, and the agency responsible for investigating allegations of violence is the police force. It would be in everyone's interests if these sorts of allegations were exclusively dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system. Once they have been investigated, the family court and other agencies could then take the outcomes into account in their own decision making processes. This would ensure that allegations are taken seriously and investigated, and separate them from other family issues, removing any incentive or disincentive which results from allegations being raised in the context of other, often bitter, disputes.


Anon: 29 Jan 2010 10:40:34am

I really feel it should be pointed out - that the violent offender is not always the father.

Growing up in our house it was the mother who was aggressive and violent. Our father has never raised a hand to defend himself. Why? who is going to believe husband over the wife. These men and their children are victims twice over.


paula: 29 Jan 2010 11:04:44am

Wow! qq seems to believe that a parent has supreme rights in raising a child. Well for some parents that means the right to inflict abuse, verbal and physical, the right to sexually abuse the child, the right to keep a child out of school, away from medical attention etc
No one person can have supreme rights over another. Children have legal rights to be safe from parental abuse. Being a parent isn't a licence to be a dictator or bully.


kp: 29 Jan 2010 11:10:43am

Why is it that this issue always degenerates into a male vs female slanging match?

There are good mothers and bad mothers just as there are good fathers and bad fathers.


qq: 29 Jan 2010 11:40:02am

kp. i have to disagree… there no bad parents… just parents who could use more community spirit.

my parents were good and bad in the sense you talk about just as all parents are.

I certainly agree this isn't a slanging match worth having. I'm a man and I love women. I think they are absolutely sensational. I also love being a man and know that i am quite different to women and I can do things women can't and vice versa.

When the household breaks down there are no other adults to help.. this is the problem with the nuclear family. Where are the grandparents ? uncles, aunts, friends, teachers, colleagues… anyone who thinks the nuclear family provides everything (or even comes close) that a child needs is wrong.


katie: 29 Jan 2010 12:01:51pm

I'm sorry, But there are bad parents!

The parent that feeds their drug habit instead of feeding their child resulting in malnutrition in a 13 yr old who is the size of a 9 year old = bad parent
The parent (either male or female) who falsely accuses the other parent of abusing their child resulting in the child never seeing the accused parent = bad parent
The parent who forces a child to have sexual relations with anyone = bad parent
The parent who beats a 2 year old until it has lost consciousness = bad parent
The parent who uses drugs, alcohol, smokes etc during pregnancy whilst being fully aware of the likely long term effects this will have on the childs health = bad parent

I'm sure I could go on!


barrie: 29 Jan 2010 11:18:07am

Why are relationships breaking down? Is it too easy to get married - and too easy to get divorced for that matter? If a relationship does break down it is very difficult to sort out what is best for the children. The answer seems to be different in many cases and needs individual results. A blanket rule about what should happen is obviously nonsense. It is good that we are still thinking about the issues. It seems, unfortunately, that we should have some monitoring of both parties to ensure no abuse is occuring.


Wayne: 29 Jan 2010 11:20:05am

May I just add that the situation I found myself and children in whilst going through the courts was abismal. The other party was an admitted physical abuser of her partner, admitted verbal and minor physical abuser of the two children and a hider of injuries caused to them by negligent activities.

Yet the Family court in it's ultimate wisdom decided the female children would be better off with her than the proven to be honest and reliable father.

Family Court reports (3) all identified the above to be correct, with the final report unable to continue to recommend the course of action taken by the courts. The report writer even recommended psychological assessment of the mother because of her wilful alienation of the children against her former partner and the children's father.

This recommendation was ignored in the court, and we now have the situation 4 years later, where the children are now having memories of events that never happened. The children had no such memories during the report processes, these memories have turned up only lately. More alienation of the father, exactly in accordance with the report writers summary.

So, I agree, children are forced into environments unsafe and unsatisfactory for an appropriate upbringing by a legal process totally out of touch with the best interests of the children and their emotional and intellectual development.

Anon, at 10.40:34AM has it so right.

Wayne in Brisbane.


anon: 29 Jan 2010 11:25:02am

this is very sad… i was a victim of an abusive stepfather and unfortunately the courts listened to neither the children nor our father. and our mother, who was suffering abusive herself never reported it for fear of losing custody. lose-lose situation for all. we were always told that we were free to go to our father's whenever we liked. but this was, in reality, not the case and we had huge domestic incidents over such requests (like staying at dad's for an extra day). it was very sad and damaging for all. i do not blame my mother but at the same time it was a very hard situation.

another point: men's rights activists need to realize that true feminism, equal rights etc recognizes that women are not by default natural mothers. so changing this old fashioned belief will help men in the courts in the long run.


Clancy: 29 Jan 2010 11:34:07am

Where are the rights of the child really? The rights of the child are this… have schools teach them discipline, emotional strength and how to get along in relationships so they wont grow up into selfish and or abusive adults leading to a divorce and or abuse of children! Yes yes it is the parents responsibility to teach that to their children blah blah blah, but we cannot control what every parent is doing… neither would we want to, but we can control what is happening in our schools!!


Melanie: 29 Jan 2010 11:35:35am

As a mother of children who are going through this right now, it is a relief that the family court is doing this. It was rather obvious in our case that there was family violence and that the children are at risk. We had concrete evidence, but that was just not enough to provide supervised visitation. They are totally alone with him with no-one to help if he hurts them again. In my position, watching them go through this and not being able to protect them is torture. The mens groups in my opinion were very selfish when they proposed the laws. They had no consideration for victims of family violence and could have better focused their energies on lobbying for their children's future that might not exist if the climate begins the path of the runaway greenhouse effect. Hopefully parents and children are now protected enough that they can get on with their lives and work to resolve these future challenges.


Steve Dela Montagne: 29 Jan 2010 11:37:49am

OK

Young Woman - - with two children - - -she is psychotic - - drug affected - - - in the Tender care of her De-facto who is violent and aggressive - - ( and probably her supplier ) .

The De facto is Currently forcing her relatives ( Of which there are many ) to keep well away with threats of violence and aggression - - - .

( She is over a thousand kilometers from her family and support network ) .

The Woman cannot report Violence ( Her opinions are seen as confused and worthless !! ) .

Unless there is a change in the law this situation will not change .

( Court action previously removed one child but the family members involved in that instance were viewed as Hostile to the court ! .)

Unless there is a law change where to for this situation .


suspicious: 29 Jan 2010 11:49:41am

Recently we were forced to have a family report done and the family report writer who is answerable to no-one wrote what he wanted to write, made virtually no notes, did not interview the child and wrote it over a few months.


T: 29 Jan 2010 11:54:10am

In regard to the father's groups gripes "that fathers do not get awarded enough time with their children in custody decisions.", I often wonder about the how much time was actually spent with the kids when the marriage/relationship was intact. The vast majority of women at the places I work at who still have intact relationships do just about everything with and for the kids. The day to day care, the social, sport and school events they organise and attend..the list goes on…and these are women who work as well…none are full time mums. The only one that seemed to have anything near an equitable arrangement was the boss and she had to rely not only on her husband but on grandmothers and grandfathers and even a great-grandma to keep the ship going!

Ruddock defends custody rights of kids

The man who initiated changes to custody laws has defended the right of children to know both their parents. Former attorney-general Philip Ruddock warned there "were some" who wanted to undo that right, as he responded to a series of reviews released by the Rudd government on Thursday.

Ruddock defends custody rights of kids

The Sydney Morning Herald
29 January 2010

Ruddock defends custody rights of kidsf

AAP - The man who initiated changes to custody laws has defended the right of children to know both their parents.

Former attorney-general Philip Ruddock warned there "were some" who wanted to undo that right, as he responded to a series of reviews released by the Rudd government on Thursday.

The reviews found changes to shared-parenting laws had led to the wrong assumption that separated fathers were entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children.

The laws were described as "confusing and troublesome", which had distracted parents from the best arrangement for their children.

Mr Ruddock said the changed laws recognised the rights of children.

"Particularly the right of a child to know both of their parents, provided they are safe and secure," he told AAP on Friday.

"There are some people who believe it should be 50-50. Some judgement has to be made about that."

Mr Ruddock said he had met many adults who had never had contact with their parents, because of a marital dispute.

"We ought not to forget it's the very important right of a child to know both of their parents."

Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne rejected suggestions the previous Howard government went too far with its changes, saying the number of complaints his electorate office had taken from "traumatised" parents had dropped to "virtually nil".

"It would be a retrograde step to take us back to the situation where particularly fathers felt deeply aggrieved and discriminated against even in the Family Court," he told Sky News.

"At least they begin with a belief that they will be treated fairly and that has made an enormous difference to the relationships between former married couples."

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said it was not for the parliament or any interest group to declare presumptions about what was in the best interests of each child.

"While the parliament has and continues to reflect the community desire that there be shared parental responsibility, at the end of the day it is for judges and magistrates to decide," he told ABC Radio.

Mr McClelland said he favoured a light touch to any more changes.

"The Family Law Council suggested an education program may be adequate, and certainly the reports themselves highlight what the correct law is," he said.

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