Caroline Overington | June 09, 2009
Reference source: The AustralianTHE Family Court is allowing mothers to leave their home state and even the country to establish a new life for themselves and their children, despite the introduction of a shared parenting law that encourages a meaningful relationship with both parents.
A recent study of the reform introduced by the Howard government in 2006, shows mothers are still being allowed to relocate to countries such as the US, Sweden and Switzerland, even if it ruptures the relationship between the children and their father, and where there is no evidence of violence.
The study concedes that such moves – known as relocation cases – succeed less often than they did before the shared parenting law came into effect, but they still happen.
The report by Kate Harkins and Patricia Eastel of the faculty of law at the University of Canberra, considered 50 relocation matters heard in the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court between 2003 and 2008.
The authors sought evidence that the reform introduced in mid-2006, had affected the primary carer's (usually the mother's) ability to relocate after divorce. They concluded that relocation had become more difficult, especially in cases where children had strong relationships with both parents and where there was no history of family violence.
In 50 cases examined by the authors, 60 per cent of parents wanting to relocate were allowed to do so. However, when the authors compared the outcome of relocation cases post-2006 with those cases decided before the new shared parenting laws came in, they found that relocation had become more difficult.
"Pre-amendment, three-quarters (15 in 20 cases) of those wanting to move were allowed to do so," the report said.
By comparison, just half of relocation applications (15 of 30 cases) have been approved in the years since the shared care amendment was enacted.
Edward Dabrowski, the federal director of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, which supports strong relationships between fathers and their children after divorce saidThe trend toward keeping parents in a close proximity to each other after divorce was encouraging.
But since 2006, there have been cases where people have gone overseas with their children.
It is more difficult to move, but it's not impossible, and there are cases where it has come down to the views of judges, and their wide discretion.
In our view, it's axiomatic (obvious). The legislation says children need to see mum and dad frequently, and it's difficult to see how that came be done if one parent is in Brisbane and the other in Melbourne.
It was hard to find any factor that would mitigate against shared parenting, other than proven violence to the children, or to the mother.