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Many children still do not see their fathers

In the study, traditional arrangements where children spend more nights with their mother than their father remains the most common situation for all age groups. Almost 80 per cent of children were spending most or all nights with their mothers, compared to 5 per cent who were spending most time with their fathers. About 16 per cent of children were in a shared care arrangement, where they spent a substantial amount of time - not necessarily equally - with each parent.
Ms Weston said there was a definite increase in couples choosing a shared care arrangement, but it did not work in all situations. She said it worked well for parents who got along and lived near each other, and they tended to see the arrangement as flexible. Children aged five to 11 were more likely to be in shared care, with a quarter living in that arrangement. But only 8 per cent of preschool aged children had a shared care arrangement with each parent.

Many children still do not see their fathers

The Age (Melbourne)
1 February 2011

Many children still do not see their fathers
By Carol Nader

About one in 10 children of separated parents never see their fathers more than a year after their parents' relationship has ended, despite changes by the Howard government that emphasised greater shared parental responsibility.

And almost a quarter of fathers see their children only during the day, according to a study of 10,000 parents by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. At the time of the interviews, conducted in 2008, parents had been separated on average for 15 months, and for up to 26 months.

Of the fathers who never saw their children, only about 30 per cent believed the arrangement had been finalised, suggesting some fathers might have intentions to take some action to have contact with their children.

''They weren't a happy group,'' said Ruth Weston, one of the authors of the study and deputy director of research at the institute. ''There was more likely to be allegations of family violence in this group prior to separation.''

Fathers with children up to the age of two and older teenagers had a higher rate of not seeing their children - 16 per cent and 13 per cent respectively - while the rate dropped to 5 per cent for fathers with children aged five to 11.

The changes the Howard government introduced in 2006 emphasised a presumption of greater shared parental responsibility where possible. But this has caused confusion, as some have interpreted it to also mean shared time.

University of Sydney professor of law and family law expert Patrick Parkinson said that for babies, seeing their father only during the day could be positive, because they need constancy. Many of those in the study had children who were preschool.

''The best outcome for preschoolers is really to see the other parent frequently but not to have extended absences from the primary carer,'' he said. Of those fathers who did not see their children at all, Professor Parkinson said the main reasons were distance and a high level of conflict between the parents, where the mother was strongly resistant to the father having contact.

Some of these fathers gave up ''not because they don't love their kids, it's just too hard''.


Lone Fathers Association president Barry Williams said he knew of fathers who had tried for years to see their children, because of allegations of sexual abuse and violence or because mothers refused to obey court orders. ''The system doesn't work for them,'' he said.

In the study, traditional arrangements where children spend more nights with their mother than their father remains the most common situation for all age groups.

Almost 80 per cent of children were spending most or all nights with their mothers, compared to 5 per cent who were spending most time with their fathers. About 16 per cent of children were in a shared care arrangement, where they spent a substantial amount of time - not necessarily equally - with each parent.

Ms Weston said there was a definite increase in couples choosing a shared care arrangement, but it did not work in all situations. She said it worked well for parents who got along and lived near each other, and they tended to see the arrangement as flexible.

Children aged five to 11 were more likely to be in shared care, with a quarter living in that arrangement. But only 8 per cent of preschool aged children had a shared care arrangement with each parent.

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