I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In OZ ~ Spotlight on shared parenting laws

Caroline Overington | October 20, 2009

Article from: The Australian

IF you are a separated parent, and your children are living in a shared-care arrangement with your former spouse, who should pay for their school uniforms?

Who should pay for the travel between the two homes?

Who should pay for the annual beach holiday? Is it only the person who goes with the children or should the cost be split between both parents, if that's the only holiday the children will have?

These are some of the questions from a federal government survey of separated parents in shared parenting agreements.

The study, Survey of Shared Care Arrangements for Children after Divorce or Separation, is designed to ascertain exactly how shared parenting is working by quizzing those parents who have entered into such agreements, either willingly, or by order of the Family Court.

The survey seeks to discover how well the arrangements work for parents and children.

The study is funded by the Attorney-General's Department, but the research is being conducted independently of government by researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of NSW and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The Howard government passed shared-care legislation late in 2006. It requires the Family Court to presume that the best interests of children are met by having a relationship with both parents after separation, unless there is violence.

The shared-parenting laws have made it more difficult for parents to relocate after separation. They have come in for harsh criticism from Family Court lawyers, and by others at the coalface of family law.

Six separate reviews of the law are under way, with change expected by the end of the year.

In order to recruit separated parents to the survey, researchers have contacted divorce lawyers, seeking clients who may be willing to take part.

"We'd like to ask you some questions about what arrangements you have and how well they work for you and the children," the survey says.

"The research will help the Attorney-General's Department in deciding whether any changes need to be made in the law."

The survey starts by asking the basics: age, gender, and how long have you been separated from your ex-partner?

It asks separated parents to explain how they came to the current arrangements with their children. Did they reach an agreement on shared care with the help of lawyer or did a judge or magistrate set out the terms?

It asks whether shared parenting is what they wanted and, if not, what arrangement they would have preferred, including "child live with me all the time".

Researchers also want to know how much of a say the children had in the arrangements now in place, and the survey asks whether the arrangement has held, or failed, and why.

Parents are asked whether they believe the other parent is bearing their fair share of the costs, and how often they disagree with their ex-partner about basic child-rearing issues.

"Can you talk to your former partner about child-related issues?" it asks.


The Australian ~ Real sharing the key

This is the first time I've seen something quite this balanced in this newspaper publication on the Australian amendments to their 1975 Family Law act, entitled the Shared Parental Responsibility Act (2006). Good on them.MJM

October 20, 2009

Article from: The Australian

Parenting rules must be addressed, not dumped

WHEN about 40 per cent of Australian marriages end in divorce, it is not feasible to entertain any return to past practice on custody arrangements, under which women were perceived to have the first claim on their children.

Not feasible, and not fair. It has always been the case that fathers have equal rights - and responsibilities - in the care of their children. But if there was any doubt about this, the enormous social changes of the past 20 or 30 years mean that fathers cannot be sidelined in Family Court matters. With men required by both law and social expectations to play an active, key role in the financing and parenting of children, it would be absurd to deny them equal access when their marriages end.

But there are emerging problems with the shared parenting law introduced by the Howard government in 2006. The requirement that Family Court judges decide access arrangements based on the presumed value of shared parenting except in abusive or violent situations has created some unhappy outcomes. At the extreme, shared parenting has meant babies shuffled across town so that mothers can breastfeed and fathers can change nappies. As The Australian reported yesterday, there are claims that cynical fathers are demanding more access not because they want to share parenting but because this means they can reduce the support money paid to their former wives for the care of children.

None of this is a real surprise to the architects of shared parenting rules: the Howard government knew that the new system would have to be tested and possibly refined. It built in a mandatory review after three years of operation and that review - along with five other inquiries - is nearing completion. Changes seem likely in this area, which is so fraught and so potentially dangerous for children, given the passion among parents who consider they have been wronged by decisions. The stakes are high, and no government can hope to devise perfect outcomes. But government has a responsibility to the children caught in the middle of divorces. Our politicians must create a policy framework that offers the best possible living situations for children.

Any changes to shared parenting rules should restate the primacy of children's wellbeing, while addressing the prescriptive nature of the law. It may be that Family Court judges should be given some scope to judge individual cases within a strict framework that continues to be dominated by the right to shared parenting. It is vital that in both perception and practice, fathers are not shortchanged by the system. There can be no return to the past, but it may be time for judges to have more freedom to interpret shared parenting when it is clear a black-letter law approach could harm the child.

Divorce is deeply saddening to adults and children alike, but the vast majority of families find a way out of the dark times and create strong, flexible arrangements under which parents and children can rebuild and flourish. Only a small proportion of cases are fought over in court, and of these fewer still are intractable.

Laws that are clear and compassionate are needed to deal with the cases that cannot be resolved by the parties. These rules also create a climate of expectation about how all parents should behave in access issues. In this sense, they create parameters society considers fair for children as well as for parents. It is for this reason, too, that the government must ensure it gets the shared parenting rules right.