Friday, January 29, 2010
Australian International Child Custody Problems
Now, an Australian Institute of Family Studies report confirms that there is a real problem. Our concern is that the problem is often greatly enhanced in international cases.
Children 'at risk' in shared parenting
By Xanthe Kleinig
From: The Daily Telegraph , January 29, 2010.
The practice of splitting child custody equally between divorced parents is being questioned after a major study found one in five parents in the arrangement believed it was not working.
An estimated 90,000 Australian children are in shared-care arrangements under a policy introduced by the Howard government with the support of fathers' rights groups.
But the largest study of the family law system, released yesterday, found a presumption of a 50-50 split was putting some children into violent homes.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said yesterday a "misunderstanding" that parents were guaranteed equal time under the law was to blame. "Bush lawyers or pub lawyers are providing advice to people going through the system that is wrong," he said.
"We are now in a situation where people have resolved cases where the best interest of children may have not been regarded."
Family laws introduced in 2006 included a presumption of equal parental responsibility, widely interpreted as an even-time split.
But researchers said yesterday parents had agreed to shared care even when they did not have to. Other parents were disillusioned because they were not granted a perfectly equal arrangement.
And violence was not being addressed in court because of the threat of paying full court costs if the allegations were not proven.
Mens Rights Agency director Sue Price said any shift away from equal time was a "disastrous" return to the old-fashioned notion that fathers didn't count.
"It is not good for children not to have both mum and dad in their life," Ms Price said.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies report, which took three years and surveyed 28,000 people, found about one in 20 children in shared care had parents who reported violence as a risk.
"There are significant concerns around the minority of families where there are safety concerns," institute director Professor Alan Hayes said. Where safety concerns were reported by parents, children suffered but they suffered the most when they were in shared care agreements, he said.
But researchers found "overwhelming" community support for the concept of shared parenting.
Ms Price said violence by women was ignored in the three reports released yesterday.