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
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
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!