Caroline Overington | October 19, 2009
THE Rudd government is planning to roll back the controversial shared parenting law passed in the final term of the Howard government, enraging men's groups, which say the laws have finally given them access to their children after separation.
Six inquiries into the shared parenting laws are now under way, which men's groups have interpreted as a sure sign that change is under way, too.
In a message to supporters, Sue Price of the Men's Rights Agency, has described the planned rollback as the "most sustained and concerted attack" on shared parenting that she has seen in 15 years.
Ms Price said the laws did no more than encourage "reasonable contact between perfectly good fathers and their children" and she is urging supporters to "convince the Rudd government that there are a million votes at stake" if they roll back the shared parenting changes.
"War has been declared and now is the time to protest the changes," Ms Price said, adding that planned changes were an attempt to "deny children shared parenting" and "an attack on a child's right to be loved and cared for by a dad on a shared-care, equal basis".
Attorney-General Robert McClelland, in concert with the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, flagged a change to the law after a small child, Darcey Freeman, died after allegedly being thrown from the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne earlier this year. Her father, Arthur Freeman, has been charged with murder. In a committal hearing, the court heard that the mother had been terrified of her former partner, and told neighbours and others that he was certain to kill one of her children.
Of the six inquiries into the law under way, the Family Court Violence Review, also known as the Chisholm report, for its chairman, former Family Court judge Professor Richard Chisholm, is likely to report to Mr McClelland first.
Submissions to the Chisholm inquiry closed on Friday. In one submission, the National Council for Children Post-Separation, which largely represents the interests of separated mothers, has examples of women forced into contact with violent partners, after those partners won the right to see their children in the Family Court.
The council says some men are approaching the court, asking for years-old parenting agreements to be modified so they can pay less child support. Under the Howard government reforms, men can pay less, in exchange for seeing their children more.
The submission says: "Parents are saying they don't want money. They would be happy to forgo maintenance payments if it saves their child from having to spend half the week with a parent who does not really want to parent them, but whose main objective is to avoid child support."
The submission also calls on the Family Court to consider the parenting roles played by each parent before separation, before deciding on shared or equal care after separation. "Some parents abandon their spouse while pregnant and years later seek shared care when the child does not even know the parent," the submission says. "One nine-year-old boy who considered he already had a father, since his mother married his stepfather when he was a baby, was told he had to spend every second weekend with his biological father. "If there is no existing emotional bond between a child and a parent, why should the court force one on a child who may have an emotional bond with a step-parent?" More than 3500 parents have signed a petition calling for the changes to the shared parenting law. A submission from men's groups was not immediately available yesterday. The Shared Parenting Council says the six reviews of the law were placing "significant pressure" on the groups, which are "holding the line against a dismantling of the 2006 Family Law changes". Besides the Chisholm review, the Attorney-General has commissioned the University of South Australia, James Cook University and Monash University to investigate the impact of family violence during and after parental relationship breakdown. This review will be overseen by professor Thea Brown. The Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW is also conducting a review, as are the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the University of Sydney.
It's about time it was recognised that children are not Time share, nor a User Pays system. The current rulings make it more about money than quality parenting.
THANK YOU to the Rudd Government. I am so grateful that someone is finally taking action to protect our children.
Yes all child infanticide is tragic; around thirty children lose their lives every year to infanticide. The majority occur in the custody of the mother, a third by the mother herself, a third of them by her new partner and a third by their father. How is this justification though for the repeal of a law that benefits literally hundreds of thousands of children who crave both parents? A labor government concerned with child abuse? When the majority of child abuse occurs in single parent families, who are in the vast majority are women. Seven out ten of those on parenting payment were previously on the dole and over half of them go on to have more children whilst on benefits; around 200,000. This is one of the many child abuse issues that an honest government would address; those parents who choose to raise children in poverty.
I feel for all parties concerned in any marriage breakdown but most of all the children. What disappoints me in regards to this inquiry is the fact that there are a large number of fathers out there who do want to maintain a healthy relationship with their children but are unfortunately being blocked by their former partners and the system that supports them. I am not naive enough to think that their aren't the dead-beat parents out there who are just trying to opt out on supporting their kids financially but for those who actually enjoy their relationships with their kids and want to maintain that - why should they be deprived and have their rights in effect stolen??? Every child who wishes to have contact with their parents, (mum & dad), should be able to do so and have those healthy relationships fostered not severed by the supporting bodies of government.
This is a total retrograde step. If the government does this then it shall loose my vote. Fathers have been highly discriminated in the family courts for years. The shared parenting arrangement was fair for most parents. Neither parent should have access to a child if they are violent. But what are we saying this is a male only thing? Women are capable of violence too. Women are capable of only wanting children so they can receive higher CSA payments. This law must be kept to allow fairness for both parents. If we want to make up for the discrimination over the last 40 years it should be changed so father become the sole carer by default. Is this fair? No...just like it's not fair making the woman the primary carer either. Children need full access to both their parents. As long as this fosters a healthy environment for the child.
I just cannot express how grateful i am to the Rudd Government for taking this matter seriously. This has to be the greatest news I've heard in years. Finally, hopefully we may be able to protect our children. This is not an attack on good fathers but it is a clear message that a child's best interest comes first. The men's rights movement fails because they put their own agenda before the rights and protection of children. Ms Price seriously needs her head examined if she's going to proclaim this as a declaration of War.
This is all smoke and mirrors. More kids get maimed and killed by Mothers because of the simple fact Mothers in the majority of cases get custody. This is just a ploy driven by the Family Law Courts to claw back some power. Even under the current laws the Mother still has more rights than the Father, where's the equality in this? My ex put me through the wringer, for no other reason than she could, she found it amusing, she was able to and she did financially and emotionally destroy me. She refused access to my own flesh and blood, she played all the games in order to cause me maximum pain, for what? Revenge, that's what. But at what cost? Due to her greed and utter cruelty she stripped me bare and almost killed me. I was in and out of hospital for clinical depression for over ten years. The denial of access, the blatent rip off that is child support which leaves nothing left to live on. The CSA and family Law Court encourages the game to be played so there is more conflict and therefore more 'business'. The problem is that John Howard's family law reform hardly went far enough, that is the problem. If Ruddy does this it will cause a hurricane backlash by Fathers and will almost certainly lead to more violence as Fathers get pushed over the threshold, beyond any human being can unexpectedly endure!
My 5year old son has to live in a 50/50 shared custody arrangement.Since this agreement was started,he has had ear,throat and lung infections almost every week!He says to me every Saturday that he doesn't want to go to his dads.Many times he has physically clung to me,screaming not to get into his dads' car.How is this ok for a child,just because he is his dad?Real men and fathers would see that the child is not coping and would not want to enforce such barbaric custody arrangements.I support a new fairer system.My son would like to see his dad every second weekend.Why is that so unreasonable?
Mothers are just as likely to murder their own children as their fathers and there are recent cases in Australia of that. There are always unbalanced people in any society, and picking on one group, or favouring one group, at the expense of another is discrimination of the worst sort. And I thought that the Australian Labor Party was against discrimination in all its many forms. Only when it suits it, right?
I doubt the stolen generation or many adults who were adopted would support the argument that parenthood can be completely defined as an emotional relationship where the biological connections are irrelevent. Separated parents of either gender are notorious for providing self interested evidence against their former partners.
To reveiw the safety of children in Family Law based on the Freeman case alone is farcicle. James Topham, Dean Shillingsworth, Oliver Garcia (whos mum killed herself and him 4 June 2008 prior to Freeman at westgate bridge), Tom and Mathew Fitchett and Lachlan and Sophie Ariyaratnam, are among numerous cases that need to be included in this review. Australian Institute of Criminology data shows that 50 percent of child homicides are committed by the mother.
How can you force children to have contact with their father when the children did not want to have contact with their father. Having left a violent partner with whom I had two children to, at the time of seperation they were 16 and 12 years old, after our separation for approximately two years the children did not want to have even short visits (2hrs) with their father this was enough to have the children in such a distressed emotional state hours prior to the contact visit and for at least 2 days afterwards. Shouldn't we be looking after out children's emotional well being?
The submission says: "Parents are saying they don't want money. They would be happy to forgo maintenance payments if it saves their child from having to spend half the week with a parent who does not really want to parent them, but whose main objective is to avoid child support - Correct. I agree with these changes. While there are alot of dads out there playing an active role there are FAR more that are doing it all for the wrong reasons. I also agree that a parent should have a heavier weighted arguement in the arrangements of a child if the other parents has been violent at any stage eg: restraining order. Very happy to see this happening.
does this vital (to a significant number of our children) situation have to swing from one extreme to the other. Cant these clowns who write the legislation and pass it apply some common sense. In this example the application of a filter to prevent (yes prevent, try that laggard brigade) the wrong parents taking advantage for the wrong reasons and if both parties cannot or will not act maturely and in the best interests of the children then onto the next provision- another story
I have collected quite a number of news articles where the mother has been the one that has killed the children post-seperation. Recent research from Western Australia (the only Australian state to collect data on the gender and relationship of the offender in this type of research) that states that children are 3 times more likely to suffer abuse while in the care of the mother. When fathers kill their children they suffer the full force of the law and all fathers are vilified by the press. When mothers kill their children, they are pitied by court and press alike. IF Australia wants to protect their children, then the government needs to stop sticking it's head in the sand and catering to the anti-male or anti-father (generally pro-feminist) groups and individuals.
I agree the law should be repealed, but not for the reasons outlined here. The worst aspect of it is that it encourages mothers to discourage access to children in order to save money. As usual, the men are unfairly demonised.
Won`t matter whether the laws are changed or not if judges in the Family Court fail to enforce Court orders. What was the record for applications to have a judgement enforced to no avail--40? 60? 80?
Thank goodness the Rudd government is reviewing these laws. In all of the arguments for men's rights where are the rights of the children to live an organised life .... to have all of their 'stuff' in one place and to have a secure base to start the day from and to come home to during the week. I don't know how these kids cope particularly in high school where the demands of study can be extreme and to have to placate parents that are looking after their own needs first as well as the difficulty inherent in adolescents . I don't know if I could demand all of that from my children. I doubt if anyone has the right to demand all of that of a child. How about we start thinking of what is best for the children .. here is a thought we could even ask the kids themselves.
It's only controversial to womens groups. This is not the first article Ms. Overington has written bashing the shared parenting laws. Good male partners SHOULD be given 50% access to their children. Violent and abusive men should not, and the legal system should address this. These laws should not be re-written to appease the male bashing minority. Thankfully my ex-wife is an intelligent and thoughtful mother who sees the need for her child to have a father in her life. I pity some of the men I know whose partners have made their childs life miserable to punish the male partner. If Labor change these laws, they have lost my vote, and I'll bet many many others.
As a single mother, I've endured 6 years of enforced facilitation of sending my child to see her father. She doesn't want to go and understands her own mother can't help her. She feels helpless and resentful. The law is on her father's side. If I don't facilitate contact, I'm in contravention which is a criminal matter. Who is on the side of the child then? Shared parenting laws are not in my experience in the best interests of the child.
It concerns me greatly that parental rights for fathers continues to be linked to domestic violence. The abuse of children is more often done by women than men yet we don't univerally remove their rights to be a participating parent. Domestic violence is abhorrent and the men and women who participate should face the full wrath of the law but to establish laws that presume guilt before innocence is unjust to all those good fathers whose only mistake was who they married.
Hopefully reason will prevale against ideology in this important social arena. As a separated father, the laws have been invaluable to me, not that I have used them. In my case, knowing the disposition of the Court if we had to resort to the law, enabled me to successfully negoatiate a 50% custody with my three children. I have successfully parented them for six years now & enjoy a full parental relationship something I could not do if I had partial access. Pleae join this fight to ensure a balancec access for all parents, not just the womens lobby.
I understand something of the grief and loss that is often experienced by men post separation and divorce but surely there has to be a better way than the current modality. It seems to me that it is the children who currently pay the price for the benefits to fathers of shared parenting. When a child is trundled around like a parcel or shipped huge distances to meet the needs of adults it seems there is truly something wrong.
The shared parenting laws have improved the lives of children and fathers throughout Australia. I voted for Labor in the last Federal elections and I am likely to do so again. But I will not vote for Labor if they roll back the shared parenting laws.
At what point in time does the real needs of the children kick in? All the kids I know that have been forced into shared care seem to be much worse off for it. Yet the kids who whilst experiencing divorce but are not ordered through the courts to spend time with a parent if they don't want to, seem to cope much better. I also feel deeply for the parent who wants to share the nurturing of their child but at the same time most children yearn stability and having to sleep here for 1 night and there for 2 nights and back here for 2 nights and back there for 2 night does not provide stabilty or allow a true support structure for any child. Any adult who thinks it does is kidding themself. Is there an answer to this issue that will satisfy everyone? I don't think so. The children must always come first.
Because one father did the wrong thing all fathers are to be penalised. There have been circumstances where the mothers have neglected their children so why don't you also use this as evidence. As for the child who only knew his stepfather, all I can say is that the mother had no right in the first place to the place the father out of the childs life. When I was 4 my parents separated, my mother remarried and my step father became my father and my surname was changed to his. I was unable to see my father and my mother did not pass on his letters, birthday cards etc. I did not see my father for over 20 years and when I did my mother refused to talk to me for 6 years. I did not bond with my father and in fact could not relate to him as my father. I am angry that I did not grow up knowing my grand parents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Not only did my father suffer but so did his mum and dad. The sad thing is that I am now angry with my mother for being selfish and after 40 years I have been unable to talk to her about it. Please don't change the laws to deny fathers the right of shared care just because of the few bad ones.
The Family Law Act is solely concerned with parent's rights and treats children as mere possessions to be divided up with the other goods and chattels. The child does not have the right to contact nor to refuse contact, but is fored into arrangments which are not necessarily of their choosing and their human rights are frequently violated by Court Proceedings and decisions. Adultism is often worse than racism and sexism and is nowhere more apparent than in the Family Law and its application..
To suggest that the tragic event in Melbourne has anything to do with shared parenting is a manipulation of the facts by those who really don't care about the rights of fathers, or the rights of children to have a father. That this could happen has far more to do with inadequate risk assessment than anything else - this is obvious. Truth is, that we have a generation of fathers who are discriminated against, called "deadbeat dads", discriminated against, and a generation of young boys who do not have adequate male role-models. Indeed, the problems of male psychology are complicated, and these sorts of discriminatory laws aren't going to help address these issues. I wonder if such discrimination would be tolerated were it have been perpetuated to women or racial minorities.
There is overwhelming evidence that share care does not work. To ignore this evidence would be irresponsible.
I am hoping this legislation includes violent parents who use and abuse children to get back at the other parent.