SHARED PARENTING IN AUSTRAILIA SENT TO ME BY A COLEAGUE

This is a summary of the major points from the most recent research into the
Family Law (Shared Parenting) Act commissioned by the Attorney General on
behalf of the Australian government. The Family Law Act was enacted in 2006
in Australia and already there is widespread concern at its detrimental
effects for children.

The research study was carried out by a team of academics from a number of
Australian Universities from various States, and was co-led by Professor
Dale Bagshaw.-

1. COURTS are delivering children to their abusers and are ignoring or
disregarding claims of domestic violence.

2. Children are being sent to live with abusive parents because lawyers and
judges are emphasising shared parenting, at the expense of the child's
safety.

3. Expert Professionals in the family law system often do not believe
allegations of domestic violence or counsel the innocent parent not to
mention it for fear of sounding vindictive and of risking contact with their
children;

4. After divorce or separation, four in 10 children are scared to spend time
with the father and almost one in 10 does not feel safe with the mother.

5. The biggest problem reported was children going into unsafe situations
because the emphasis on parental rights has been given the same emphasis as
the safety of the child.

6. Throughout the separation process, children felt powerless because they
were not given a say about parenting arrangements or their wishes were
ignored.

Professor Bagshaw commented about the study, "The safety of the child should
be given the highest priority and any accusation of violence should be
investigated before the child is sent to stay with the abusive parent."

The report's recommendations include that children's welfare needs must be
paramount, that victims' rights be given priority over children's contact
with the perpetrator, and that all family law professionals should have more
education on family violence.
Researchers spoke to more than 1000 adults and more than 100 children.

My comments: Other research and statistics show that the cases which are
referred to the Family Court are not the types of cases suited for the best
outcomes for children in shared parenting. In fact, shared parenting is
dangerous in these cases due to the nature of the issues that ultimately led
to the litigation; issues such as domestic violence and child abuse. It is
no coincidence that overwhelmingly, people that claim these issues are
merely used as strategies in Family Courts to deny "good fathers" their
children, have the most to gain by a posture that denies any personal
violence on their part that may have led to the separation in the first
place. To legislate equal shared parenting is to create the least safe
conditions in a jurisdiction that mostly deals with the cases of the most
dangerous issues of personal safety in intimate relationships. In 60% of
those cases which involved allegations of domestic violence and child abuse
against fathers, the fathers were given contact with or residency of the
children.

The following is an example:-
"In a recent case in the Family Court [SYF3075 of 2004] a 7 year old child
was removed from the care of his mother who had raised him from birth
despite the father stating on several occasions that he did not want the
child and he took no interest in the child for several years. He had
committed acts of violence and mental abuse against the mother over many
years, including a very serious incident of rape for which the mother was
awarded a substantial sum in the form of Criminal Injuries Compensation. The
Criminal Court acquitted the father of the charges of rape as it required a
much higher standard of evidential proof. This was all made known to the
Family Court by the mother who expressed concerns regarding the father's
conduct and his being a possible risk to safety and welfare of the child but
the Court initially awarded contact.

When the mother expressed serious concerns that following contact visits
with his father, the child was exhibiting signs of abuse and highly
sexualised behaviours which involved seeking pornographic images on the
Internet, persistently trying to see his step-mother while she was naked in
the shower, masturbating openly in front of adult females, and complaining
of his father massaging his full body for over an hour during the early
hours while he was in bed. The mother made no direct accusations against the
father, merely expressing her concerns at the child's behaviours and
disclosures. Any child protection professional would share these concerns
that the child was experiencing some form of abuse, yet a consultant
psychiatrist who made only a peremptory examination of this evidence,
dismissed the incidents and rationalised their effects on the child. The
psychiatrist also completely disregarded the earlier recommendations of a
psychologist to the Court that the child needed the continuing emotional
support of the mother and should remain in her care. The psychiatrist did
not assess either parent for mental disorders. Notably the psychiatrist's
evidence had previously been dismissed from another case in Western
Australia Supreme Court for, in the Judges' views, "acting as an advocate
for the father", yet has been allowed to give evidence to other Courts in
Australia.

The Family Court acted on the recommendations of the psychiatrist that the
child should be removed from the mother's care and placed in the full
custody of the father despite the fact the child had only known the mother
as his sole carer and had close bonds with his maternal grandparents, and
the Court further forbid the mother any contact for eight weeks and
thereafter only permitting the child to see his mother for a few short hours
of supervised contact every fortnight. The father is already seeking to
sabotage this arrangement by stating the child is very upset after the first
meeting with his mother, a very natural and healthy reaction after what the
child has experienced but which will now be used in Court against the mother
to terminate all contact with her.

This is how Australia upholds the rights of children under International
Conventions to be protected from harm and exploitation and for their wishes
and feelings to be respected and safeguarded. The Australian Federal
government was a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child
in 1991.

Similar cases are also occurring in the U.S.A., Canada, the U.K., and
Ireland under their existing Family Law legislation.

Value-media.


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