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Family Law

Aug 232016

Love-TriangleWOMEN have evolved to pursue affairs in case they decide to leave their partners, scientists have suggested.

While men have similar programming, it seems that the trait is more prevalent in females.

The new research challenges the assumption that humans are meant to be monogamous and that breaking up with somebody is a sign of failure.

The “mate-switching hypothesis” suggests that humans have evolved to test their own relationships – and constantly check for better long-term options.

Scientists claim that this theory applies particularly to childless women – whose choice of partner can have a huge impact on any children they may have.

David Buss, Cari Goetz and colleagues, said in a research paper: “Lifelong monogamy does not characterise the primary mating pattern of humans. Breaking up with one partner and re-mating with another — mate switching — may more accurately characterise the common, perhaps the primary, mating strategy of humans.”

For early humans, when few lived beyond the age of 30, experimenting when it came to partners may have been the key to survival.

The researchers argue: “Although break-ups are often moralised as ‘failures’, we propose that selection has sculpted a complex psychology designed to jettison current mates and acquire new ones in circumstances when mate switching would have been evolutionarily advantageous.”

Surprisingly, the paper even cites the actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, whose character in the television series The Client List said: “Husbands are like pancakes: there’s no shame in throwing the first one out.”

Their theory is also reminiscent of the tangled web of affairs featured in the 2004 film Closer, starring Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts.

However, the ideas are proving controversial among those researching the evolution of human behaviour.

Until now the main explanation for the evolution of female infidelity was the “good genes” theory – that women are attracted to ‘less dominant’ men because they are more likely to stay with them.

Nevertheless, many women seek more masculine ‘affair’ partners — especially in their fertile period.

In evolutionary terms, this means that thy go for the “fittest” genes for their baby from the affair partner, to then have the child cared for by a more reliable long-term partner.

While this may sound devious, women’s real behaviour is more subtle.

David Buss, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Texas, and Goetz, assistant professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, suggest that women keep track of their partner’s “mate value” – comparing it with that of single men.

They also evaluate “relationship load” — the costs imposed by partners who behave badly or fail to provide for them.

The scientists say: “Affairs serve as a form of mate insurance, keeping a backup mate should a switch become warranted in the future.”

The academics even suggest that women in positive relationships could benefit from affairs, adding: “A regular mate may cheat, defect, die, or decline in mate value. Ancestral women lacking a backup mate would have suffered a lapse in protection, and resources.”

Original Post

Oct 252014

Divorce-Advice-F4EThere was recently an article by David Koch in the Daily Telegraph entitled “Simple money moves to make after Divorce“,  advising the 50,000 couples of divorce in Australia each year on how to financially prepare for divorce.

Whilst some of the suggestions make sense, and in all honesty are basic common-sense, Fathers4Equality would like to put forward alternate approaches not only designed to ensure that each member of the marriage gets a fair share of the spoils in the event of divorce, but where possible, that you both can find enough common ground (as its in your own best interest)  to limit the huge costs associated with the simple process of getting a divorce.

Although divorce in Australia these days is what’s called no-fault-divorce, for too many people it is not no-fee divorce, and as a shared parenting advocacy group, we all too frequently witness couples who would have worked hard for decades to get a nice car, a dream holiday or to pay for those special items that enrich the lives of their children, and yet they wouldn’t think twice about throwing all these savings away, because of the heat and resentment that drives so many people in divorce.

Let us be clear here. Fathers4Equality understands the emotional dynamic of divorce. We don’t blame the parents involved. But more on that later.

1. Protect what’s yours

David Koch: A few simple steps are all that’s needed to protect yourself in the short term. There’s plenty of time to work through the bigger things, like who gets the house, later. Take your money out of any joint accounts, cancel or halt any joint credit cards and change your online banking passwords to avoid any nasty surprises if things get out of hand. Is your salary about to hit the joint account? Speak to your employer about getting it shifted. And if you have to get out of the house quick smart, round up any personal valuables, just in case.

Fathers4Equality: In general, good, practical advice. But of course if these actions catch the other partner unaware and off-guard, it could likely lead to huge mis-trust from the get-go. And who is to say that you own this personal valuables outright, or that the money that you have taken out of the joint accounts was all yours? We are of the view that this is a high risk tactic, that sets the stage for an acrimonious divorce, that will only end up costing you much more in the end.

We would suggest that all bank accounts are frozen, that credit cards are halted, and that you take a video audit of all the household items, and where possible, find the invoices of the original cost of these ietms, and from which account they were paid from.

If divorce can be foreseen long before it will actually happen, it would be prudent to avoid joint bank accounts altogether, except for one joint account for household expenses, which you would each contribute to on an equal basis weekly. These avoids so much confusion later on.

2. Dig out the documents

David Koch: It’s crucial to secure copies of all important financial documentation immediately. Don’t wait around only to find your partner has hidden or tampered with the family files. If things get messy, you’ll want to be fully across your finances.

Fathers4Equality: Good point, but make sure you copy these documents, rather than remove them from the premises. This is again a matter of building some trust, but at the end of the day, it will end up costing more money to recover these documents via lawyers, so transparency is the best policy.

3. Get a family law lawyer

David Koch: Find a good family lawyer fast. Know any lawyers or had a friend go through a divorce recently? Chances are they’ll be able to recommend someone, but if not do some research.

If you’re thinking about going without a lawyer, remember a marriage is a legal agreement and undoing it is a complex and formal process. Even if things are expected to be amicable, your partner could still engage a lawyer so it’s best to be prepared and know your rights and obligations from the start.

Fathers4Equality:  Wrong, wrong, wrong, unless you are one of the super-wealthy families in this country.

And in contrast to David Koch’s assertion, marriage in practice in not a legal agreement. It is riddled with exceptions which one my find staples of contract law, and promises made prior to marriage and during marriage amount to NOTHING, even in many cases when deceit is involved.

No, to put it more accurately, marriage is an emotional bond, and a financial agreement. It is these two powerful forces that you need to negotiate to divorce successfully, without effectively destroying the remainder of your future. In short, you must constrain the emotion, and stay focussed on the bottom line, which includes limiting costs just as much as it does increase your percentage of the marital assets.

Fathers4Equality: Some other suggestions we can offer.

Gifting of Household or other personable valuables.

If you are a male, we find a disturbing trend where men leave the family home, and in some mis-guided gesture of chivalry, gift all the household goods to the soon-to-be ex-wife. As a male myself, I can understand the urge, as foolish as it is, but it must be pointed out that this gesture ALWAYS backfires on the male. Gifting household goods will not necessary be accounted for when you are trying to split the net proceeds of the sale of the family home, or when negotiating Child Support.

Fair is fair is fair, and you must be as fair to yourself as you should be to the soon-to-be ex-wife.

Sub-conscious hopes of reconciliation

We have one member who is Australian but was born and raised in India. He came to Australia, worked very hard, and at one point went back to India and married via an arrangement. His wife was studying to be a doctor, had enormous expenses to pay, and this therefore became his financial responsibility.

Well, at some point she called him from India (while still studying) and told him that she met someone else, and wanted a divorce. She offered however to pay him back what was at that stage about (AU) $250,000 in his support at that point in time.

He refused to take her money. In fact, he insisted that he wanted to continue to pay for the rest of her expenses until she finally graduated.

I can’t tell you how many discussions I had with him to try and understand his motivation, but I (along with a group of other F4E members), could only conclude that sub-consciously, this was his attempt at winning her back.

Well, I bumped into him a about 6 months ago. The long and the short of it is that she graduated, she is working, she has re-married, and she had only called him once since his final payment to her. He is living in  shabby one-bedroom apartment, is all alone, is a really great fellow, but has destroyed his future because of this mis-guided sense that money and support can buy back love. It can’t and it won’t.

Binding Financial Agreements (pre/post nuptial agreements)

Do you know that you can enter into a Binding Financial Agreement even after you are married. Fathers4Equality finds these agreements the most sensible thing you can do before getting married, but if you are on rocky ground, why not start negotiating while you are still on okay terms?

Counselling & Leaving Lawyers Out of it.

If I was your lawyer during your divorce proceedings and told you that your ex has agreed to give you an extra $50,000 more than you you asked for, and end proceedings here and now, would you take it?

No need to answer, but you would be silly not to be tempted. Well, you would be surprised at how many couples spend over $100,000 in divorce proceedings, typically over items that have very little financial value themselves.

Although easy to say, when considering a divorce, be prepared to let the other side get an extra $20,000 more than what you think they are entitled to, if that also provides you with an extra $20,000, or $30,000, or $40,000.

You see, divorce should not be about “it’s not fair that he/she gets that!”.

It should be about “What can I do to get the most in assets, money and a better future for me and my kids.”

Fairness is a nebulous concept that will drive you to devastation. Think like an accountant, and imagine that you are the client of this accountant. Acting in the third person can sometimes make it easier to listen to common sense.

So if you can, listen to the inner-accountant in you, and remember that that $100,000 that you may pay in legal bills for divorce, does not deserve to go towards another Caribbean holiday house for the Judge and lawyers involved.

This money belongs to you and your kids. Keep your eye on the ball and off your heart, and remember that you have a huge history ahead of you, and its cheaper and healthier to start your future sooner rather than later, and richer instead of poorer.

And one final point on family law solicitors. Always remember that the more you litigate, the more money they make. Although they are not supposed to needlessly extend divorce proceedings, in many cases they do, because its just human nature. So think for yourself where possible. Don’t take every bit of legal advise you receive as gospel.

Aug 292014
parliamentary-inquiry-into-child-supportThe Parliamentary web-site is may be interested in providing a verbal submission at the Teleconference at the evening session on 28 August 2014. Your submission can be up to 3 minutes long. Contact details for prior registration are provided below.

1. Thursday 28 August 2014
Committee room 1R3
Parliament House, Canberra
Time Witness
9.30 am Department of Social Services (DSS) and Department of Human Services (DHS)
11.00 am Close

2. Thursday 28 August 2014
5.00 pm Community statements by Teleconference:
7.00 pm Close

Please telephone, fax or email (for prior registration):
Tel (02) 6277 2223 Fax: (02) 6277 8594 Email:

3. Friday 29 August 2014
Committee Room 2R1
Parliament House , Canberra
Time Witness
9.00 am Bruce Smyth PhD & Bryan Rodgers PhD (Submission 13)
9.45 am Family & Relationship Services Australia (Submission 61)
10.30 am Community Statements
11.15 am Economic Security 4 Women (Submission 64)
12.00 pm Break
12.45 pm Australian Men’s Health Forum (Submission 48)
1.30 pm National Legal Aid (Submission 57)
2.15 pm Close

4. Thursday 4 September 2014
Committee Room 1R3
Parliament House, Canberra
Time Witness
9.30 am Commonwealth Ombudsman (Submission 55)
10.15 am Community Statements
11.00 am Close

5. Thursday 25 September 2014
Committee room 1R3
Parliament House, Canberra
Time Witness
9.30 am Attorney-General’s Department (Submission 95)
10.15 am Dads 4 Kids – Warwick Marsh (Submission 93)
11.00 am Close

Jul 202014

vHot on the heals of the current Child Support Inquiry being held in Parliament, on the 26 June 2014, the Abbott government agreed to another Inquiry related to family law, which was referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report by the 27 October 2014.

This new Inquiry is stated to have the following goals:

  1. To investigate and report on the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in Australia as it affects all Australians and, in particular, as it affects:women living with a disability, and
  2. women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds;
  3. the factors contributing to the present levels of domestic violence;
  4. the adequacy of policy and community responses to domestic violence;
  5. the effects of policy decisions regarding housing, legal services, and women‘s economic independence on the ability of women to escape domestic violence;
  6. how the Federal Government can best support, contribute to and drive the social, cultural and behavioural shifts required to eliminate violence against women and their children; and
  7. any other related matters.

What is not clear at this stage is whether this inquiry will be interested in investigating all forms of domestic violence against all victims, or whether it will only be concerned with women with disabilities and women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, or alternatively just with women in general as victims.

At this point the information available is contradictory, making references to “as it affects all Australians” in one place, but elsewhere referring to women and/or children exclusively.

It may be, as is too often the case with Parliamentary inquiries, that this is an exercise in public relations first and foremost, and based on past experience, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott is only too happy to promote his apparent new found Liberalism when it comes to women’s issues.

So we at Fathers4Equality would not be  surprised if submissions by men and/or fatherhood groups would be ignored or deleted from the record.

That being the case, we would still encourage everyone with constructive thoughts on how to improve the policy surrounding Domestic Violence to document it and submit it to the Inquiry. You never know, it may make a difference after all.

Please keep in mind that the Inquiry will not be considering or examining any material that relates solely to personal cases or grievances. The Inquiry is however seeking suggestions on the current adequacy of domestic violence policy as it relates to housing, legal services and women’s (and hopefully men’s too) economic independence on their ability to escape violence.

For further information:

Committee Secretariat contact:
Senate Finance and Public Administration Committees
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: +61 2 6277 3439
Fax: +61 2 6277 5809

Submissions closing date is 31 July 2014. The reporting date is 27 October 2014.

Jul 142014

Independant Children's Lawyer family law surveyIf you are one of the many fathers who believe that they have been discriminated against by a Court appointed ICL (Independent Children’s Lawyers) during child custody proceedings, simply because of your gender, well these family law researchers want to hear from you.

Family Law Express have just released a survey asking for feedback from parents who have worked with an ICL during their child custody matter.

Do you believe the ICL was professional, did they understand the family law act, did they treat you differently because of your gender, did they even bother to talk to you?

The Family Law Express Independent Children’s Lawyers survey asks these questions and more, probing the professionalism of a group of effectively unregulated solicitors who are better known for their gender-political ideologies than they are for their focus on a child’s best interests.

Whilst the Australian Government Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has recently released a report aimed towards the better utilisation of ICL’s, Family Law Express is endeavouring to add to the debate through its own direct-to-consumer research. In doing, these researchers wish to both elaborate on and question findings of the AIFS report, and to define the common experience between families and ICL’s in an attempt to uncover truths and offer suggestions for innovative legal reform. Through such research they aim to add to the public debate what many parent’s believe to be the real value of involving an ICL in child related Court matters, without the double-speak or self-justification that often occurs when governments focus almost solely on the opinions of so called experts.

Family Law Express is asking all parents who have been involved with ICL’s to contribute in prompting important and necessary legal reform. We ask you to please participate in our short survey on your experience with ICL’s and to add to this significant debate within family law.

Your help in promoting out survey on your site would be instrumental in our aim to reach out to as many parents as possible from diverse backgrounds in order to truly understand the experience of parents with independent children’s lawyers.

This survey will only take a few minutes of your time but would provide invaluable feedback on the performance of ICL in Family Law children’s matters.

Tell us about your experience with an ICL at

If you have any questions please contact Jessica at

Jul 012014

2014-Federal-BudgetOn May 13th 2014, the Abbott Government released its proposed budget for 2014-2015.

The budget has yet to pass the Australian Parliament and it is in some doubt as to whether many of the proposed reforms will pass the Australian Senate.

If these reforms are passed in their original form, they will have a significant impact on families, and in particular separated families.

Outlined below are some of the effects the proposed budget will have on separated families if passed in its current form.

Separated families and Government Payments

Family Tax benefits

Family tax benefits are payments supplied by the government subject to certain criteria to assist with the cost of raising children. Under the proposed 2014 budget, their payment rates will be frozen for two years. This means that while inflation (and thus prices of milk, bread etc.) rises, these payments will not.

Family Tax Benefit Part A

Family Tax Benefit Part A is a payment per child under 15 years, or aged 16-19 depending on meeting certain education and training criteria. It is awarded if you satisfy a means requirement, a residence requirement, your child is fully immunised and you care for the child at least 35% of the time. Currently, the maximum payment per fortnight is $172.20 for each child aged 0-12 and $224 for each child aged 13-19 who satisfies the criteria.

The main payment itself does not have any changes, but some of the following changes are connected to this payment.

Family Tax Benefit Part A –Child add-on.

Under the current system, the maximum amount able to be earned before the Family Tax Benefit Part A is affected is increased by $3,796 for the second and every subsequent child. Under the proposed 2014 budget, this will be removed.

Family Tax Benefit Part A –New $750 payment

For those eligible for the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A, a new allowance of $750 will be introduced for each child aged between 6 and 12 years of age. If you receive over $1478.25 in child support or spousal maintenance per year you may no longer be eligible for the maximum rate and consequently not eligible for this new payment.

Family Tax Benefit Part A -Large family supplement

Under the current system a large family supplement exists where, subject to certain criteria, $12.04 is provided for the third and every subsequent child. Under the proposed 2014 budget, this payment will instead be awarded for the fourth and every subsequent child.

Family Tax Benefit End of Year Supplement

The Family Tax Benefit End of Year Supplement is awarded to those receiving Family Tax Benefits based on the final income for the year. Under the proposed budget, these will not rise with inflation and will be lowered to $600 per annum for each child under Family Tax Benefit Part A, and $300 per annum for each family under Family Tax Benefit Part B.

Family Tax Benefit Part B

Family Tax Benefit Part B is a payment for single parents and families with one main income. It may be awarded where the primary earner’s income is under $150 000 per year to a parent, foster carer, grandparent of other carer who has a dependent child under 16 or a secondary student under 18 for at least 35% of the time. Currently, the maximum payment per fortnight is $146.44 where the youngest child is under 5 years old, or $102.20 where the youngest child is between 5 and 18.

Under the proposed 2014 budget, there are two very large differences that may affect separated families. Firstly, the maximum income of the primary earner will be lowered from $150 000 to $100 000.  Secondly, Family Tax Benefit Part B will no longer apply to children aged 6 or older from 2015. However, this restriction will not commence until 2017 for those who currently receive Family Tax Benefit Part B.

Separated families with low incomes

For many separated families, new and increased costs will need to come out of an already tight income.One such change is the heavily criticized introduction of a $7 co-payment for doctor’s visits, where maximum of ten payments applies to children under 16.


A further measure that will particularly affect separated families is unfreezing the fuel excise, so it continues to rise with inflation. This will directly impact the separated families with some form of shared custody, which usually involves transporting the children from one home to another on a regular basis.

Concession cards

Many single parents have a Commonwealth Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card. Under the proposed 2014 budget, the National Partnership Agreement on Certain Concessions for Pensioners Concession Card and Seniors Card Holders will be terminated. Without the federal funding for these programs, the State Governments may end concessions for programs such as public transport. However, there is no evidence that this would be the case at this point in time and it is possible that the state governments may find another way to fund concessions.

Separated families attempting to reconcile

The budget also included the unveiling of the “Stronger Relationships” program, where couples can sign up online to receive a $200 voucher to be used on counselling and education. It is available for “all couples in a committed relationship, including engaged, married, de-facto and same-sex couples” to be used on counselling or education, including working through financial management or conflict resolution. This means that separated couples attempting reconciliation may receive some financial assistance to undergo counselling.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme

The federal budget has provided very little detail on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme, which has made it difficult to determine precisely what impact this scheme will have on separated families.

The paid parental leave scheme was not included as a separate item in the budget, however the Treasurer Joe Hockey did recently confirm that the threshold had been reduced from $150,000 to $100,000.

Hockey stated that the changes to the paid parental leave threshold was in line with changes to the family tax benefit payments Part A and B, which now cut off or phase out around the $100,000 income level.

Written by Susan Jayne: Family Law Express 

Jun 182014

overnight care for toddler in shared parenting arrangementA US child psychologist has entered a bitter debate on toddler sleep-overs by warning that young children from separated families could suffer brain damage by sleeping over with their father if their mother is the primary caregiver.

Psychologist Penelope Leach has made the explosive statement that separation from mothers “reduces brain development” and could lead to “unhealthy attachment issues”. She has offered no evidence to back up her claims however, relying on her apparent expert opinion and observations.

Dr Leach, whose parenting books have sold millions, says even one night away from mum, if she is the primary caregiver, could cause lasting damage.

Discredited Research

These sentiments follow the now condemned research carried out by Australian psychologist Dr Jen McIntosh, which found that toddlers separated from their mother during sleep time, were more stressed. The research used by Dr McIntosh to make these claims has since been roundly condemned as unsound, non-scientific, non-longitudinal, and methodically compromised, and many argued that her research was of little value since it was so poorly structured. It should be noted that McIntosh’s conclusion have not been supported by any other similar studies since.

The Influence of McIntosh and Co on Shared Parenting laws

The influence however of the McIntosh study, as flawed as it was, on Australia’s family law system has been so profound that barristers have a special phrase to describe the common experience of losing the battle for some overnight care of toddlers – they joke they’ve been “McIntoshed”. But for the fathers concerned it is no joking matter.

The McIntosh era dates back to 2010 when the Labor government commissioned her to lead an investigation into the impact on preschoolers of overnight contact in their father’s care. Many are of the view that McIntosh was commissioned by the Labor government, precisely because she had made no secret that she was opposed to Australia’s then-recently enacted Shared Parenting laws.

Condemned as amateurish and transparent  

Ash Patil from Fathers4Equality called the McIntosh research “trojan horse advocacy which was undone by the fact that the study was so poorly done. The study had no redeeming features, it was a complete mess and it looked like a rush job which did not even do the basics like have a proper control group. It can best be described as amateurish and quite transparent in its goal.”

Sonja Hastings, editor of Articles About Men claimed that “I think McIntosh started out with the conclusion, and then she made her research fit her ideology, and I think there is no hiding from that fact when you read the study.”

“She even avoids addressing the most obvious questions that come from her research. For instance, what about sleeping at grandparents, or at daycare, or in another room, or while mum is in the kitchen. It is a case of ideology trumping common sense and healthy development dynamics in all families.”

Likewise with Psychologist Penelope Leach’s claims on brain damage for sleep-overs with dad, a lot of people remain unconvinced.

Dr Leach first caused controversy in the 1970s when she released her book, Your Baby & Child: From Birth To Age Five, which suggested that only mothers could care adequately for a child and a father’s role is secondary.

Dr Leach says shared custody is being treated as a right rather than considering what is best for the child.

Celebrities like Louis CK have spoken about the difficulties faced sharing custody of children. Louis CK continually talks about how he would be nothing without his two daughters.

While fathers’ groups have called the comments by Dr Leach ‘absolute poison’, Oliver James, a trained clinical child psychologist, journalist and TV presenter, said Dr Leach was providing “good advice.”

“All the evidence suggests that younger children should not be separated from their primary caregiver who, in the vast majority of cases, is the mother,” he told the Independent. “If the child has a really strong attachment to both parents, there might be a case for exploring whether it really matters if they have sleep- overs at the father’s. But in most cases, you should do nothing to disrupt the relationship with the primary caregiver. To do so can affect the child’s brain development.

110 Leading International Experts on Child development

However,  according to a recently published academic paper endorsed by 110 leading international experts, it is not the case that sharing of overnight care of infants is problematic. The paper, Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A consensus report was published in February in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law.

It is backed by leading Australian academics including Don Edgar, the former head of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Judy Cashmore, Associate Professor in Socio-Legal Studies at Sydney University and Barry Nurcombe, Emeritus Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Queensland.

This article analyses existing research and finds that infants commonly develop attachment relationships with more than one care giver and concludes that in normal circumstances children are likely to do better if they have overnight contact with both parents.

It also finds that depriving young children of the opportunity to stay overnight with their fathers could compromise the quality of developing father-child relationships.

Fathers4Equality echoes this compelling research by stressing that unscientific dogma being pushed by zealouts  like Leach and McIntosh is what ultimately is so harmful to our young children, by denying them an equal and meaningful relationship with both parents, at a time when they need it the most.

Jun 012014

frozen-embryosA judge has awarded custody of frozen embryos to a 42-year-old woman over the objections of her ex-boyfriend who said it violates his right to not procreate.

In 2009, Karla Dunston, began dating Jacob Szafranski, a 32-year-old firefighter. A few months into their relationship Dunston was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy that would ultimately destroy her fertility.

She testified that she longed to have a biological child and asked Szafranski to provide his sperm so that embryos could be frozen prior to her treatment, and he did so, despite neither of them thinking the relationship had long-term prospects.

The couple broke up in May 2010. Szafranski said he changed his mind about being a father after friends and a girlfriend reacted negatively, according to court documents.

Judge Sophia Hall said Friday in a written ruling that oral agreements between Szafranski and Dunston concerning use of the embryos stand and added that Dunston’s desire to have a child outweighs Szafranski’s desire to not procreate.

“Karla’s desire to have a biological child in the face of the impossibility of having one without using the embryos outweighs Jacob’s privacy concerns, which are now moot,” the judge said in the ruling, “and his speculative concern that he might not find love with a woman because he unhesitatingly agreed to help give Karla her last opportunity to fulfil her wish to have a biological child.”

Dunston’s lawyer, Abram Moore, applauded the ruling.

“Using these pre-embyros is important to our client, but it is equally important to her to set a precedent in Illinois which helps other women cancer survivors who find themselves in this heart-wrenching situation,” he said in an email.

Szafranski’s lawyer, Brian Schroeder, said they plan to appeal the decision.

“We’re obviously very unhappy,” he said.


Karla Dunston

Schroeder said lawyers for both parties have agreed that the embryos should not be implanted in Dunston until the appeal is completed.

Through a lawyer, Dunston previously has said she was not seeking any support, financial or otherwise, from Szafranski.

It was by both legal teams noted that despite the intentions to the contrary by Dunston, Szafranski would be liable for child support in the event of a birth, and that this financial obligation will be viable and retrospective if at any time Dunston decides to seek financial support from Szafranski.

In 1985, 260 babies were born through assisted reproductive technology; in 2010, the number topped 61,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Yet only a few state higher courts have addressed, with mixed results, what to do with frozen embryos once a couple has separated. Legal experts said they would be watching to see how Illinois handles the complex issue.

Read Story

Feb 012014

single-parent-families-bad-for-childrenSOCIAL progressives on both sides of politics may not like the message or the messenger, but Cory Bernardi had a point about the benefits of the traditional family.

Decades of social science data has shown that children, on average, do better in life on measures of health, education and social outcomes when raised in two-parent married families.

The risks to children associated with family breakdown disprove the fashionable idea that marriage, divorce, and sole parenting don’t matter for children.

The importance of marriage to children’s wellbeing is especially relevant to one of the most important child welfare issues facing the nation – child sexual abuse.

The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family setting. However, the fact that in 70-80 per cent of cases the perpetrator is found to have a “familial relationship” with the abused child obscures a more significant truth.

Numerous studies have found that children who do not live with both biological parents, irrespective of socio-economic status, are far more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in traditional families. Girls living in non-traditional families are found to have been sexually abused by their “stepfathers”, either the married, cohabiting, or casual partner of a divorced or single mother, at many times the rate that girls are sexually abused by their biological fathers in traditional families.

The 2010 US Fourth National Incidence Study of Abuse and Neglect found that compared to peers living in married two-biological-parent families, children living with a single parent who had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused. Children living with a single parent with no cohabiting partner, and children living in a stepfamily (with married biological and non-biological parents), were five times and between eight and nine times more likely to be sexually abused, respectively.

Step and single-parent families accounted for only one-third of all children in the US (33 per cent) but accounted for more than two-thirds (66.8 per cent) of all children who experienced child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse statistics in Australia are far less comprehensive and meaningful. Data publicly available here does not provide specific information about family structure, the identity of the perpetrator, and their relationship with the abused child.

This is symptomatic of the deeper silences in the national conversation about child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been widely applauded for finally “breaking the silence” surrounding child sexual abuse.

The commission’s inquiry into the ways that churches, schools and other institutions have mishandled child sexual abuse is crucial. However, we should still question the extent to which the commission’s findings will ensure children are better protected from sexual abuse in the future when the well-established but under-publicised links between family structure and child sexual abuse are not being investigated.

When the Australian Christian Lobby released a major report on child welfare in 2011 detailing the evidence demonstrating that family breakdown is a major risk factor for child sexual abuse, the facts were neither disputed nor acknowledged in the little public discussion that ensued. They simply washed in and out of the public domain and left no trace on community attitudes.

The issues are not fully and frankly discussed in this country because the public discourse is self-censored, in effect, by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards “family diversity”, the socially “progressive” and “non-judgmental” fiction that says the traditional family is just one among many, and equally worthy, family forms.

In hindsight, we are justifiably critical of the silences that in earlier times kept child sexual abuse a hidden problem. Yet a comparable silence exists today.

Greater community awareness is needed of the potentially harmful impact the relationship and reproductive choices of adults can have on children. This could be achieved by a government-commissioned, anti-child sexual abuse public information campaign. The campaign should emphasise that the traditional family is a protective factor that prevents child sexual abuse. It should also publicise how divorce and single-parenthood increases the risk of sexual abuse for the more than one in four Australian children who do not live with both biological parents.

This is not as radical as it sounds. In New York and Chicago, public information campaigns are encouraging marriage before having children and discouraging teen pregnancy. Barack Obama has also endorsed the need for “strong stable families” to reduce poverty in America.

Australian governments already conduct advertising campaigns such as anti-smoking and anti-drink driving campaigns to educate citizens, promote certain values, and change attitudes and behaviours. A public information campaign that advertised the risks to children posed by family breakdown would end the new silence that hides the culturally unfashionable truth.

Jeremy Sammut is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. His report, The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse, is released today.

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Dec 182013

The following are some of the questions our counsellors are frequently asked by callers. Please note that the responses to these questions are necessarily general and may not apply to your individual circumstances. Please call the helpline if you need further information.

Where can I get legal advice?

Community Legal Centres and legal help-lines offer free legal advice. Legal Aid in your state may also be able to offer free advice. Law associations can usually refer you to a solicitor in your area. Search our 
services directory for legal services close to where you live. The Family Relationships Advice Line (1800 050 321) also provides legal referrals Australia-wide.

My wife has said she is going to leave me. What do I need to know?

There are three important practical areas you need to consider if you are facing divorce: division of property, maintenance payments and residency of/contact with children. Hopefully you will be able to settle some or all of these matters without recourse to lawyers. This is clearly the preferred option as court proceedings may be lengthy and very expensive. They are also extremely stressful and can involve considerable hostility, which can have a very damaging effect on children caught in the cross-fire. However, even though court should be avoided if at all possible, it is wise to seek legal advice in order to get a clear understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities in the event that matters do have to go to formal proceedings. Note that from July 1st, 2007 it will be a legal requirement for separating couples to go through a mediation process prior to taking their case to court.

After separation, you may be required to pay child maintenance to your ex-wife to contribute to the cost of raising your children. The amount you will need to pay will depend on a range of factors including how many children you have and how old they are, your income, your wife’s income, and the amount of time you spend looking after your children each week. The formula is set by legislation. The Child Support Agency (CSA) is the government body responsible for making assessments and helping separated parents manage their financial responsibilities towards their children. In the event of separation, you will need to make contact with CSA to arrange an assessment. Note that separated parents can also make a private maintenance arrangement without going through CSA, if both parties agree.

Residency and contact arrangements for children are often the area that is most difficult for separated parents. A good idea is to prepare a parenting plan, which is a written, signed and dated agreement outlining care arrangements for your children. The main purpose is to specify who cares for which children and when, but it may also cover such areas as who pays for what expenses, as well as other matters such as choice of school, house rules and so on. A parenting plan is not legally enforceable (unless made before 14th January, 2004), although it can be converted into an enforceable ‘consent order’ if both parties agree. Mediation can help this process if parents are having trouble agreeing or even discussing arrangements.   Contact the Family Relationships Advice Line (1800 050 321), the Family Court of Australia or your local Family Relationships Centre to find out more about how to formalise a parenting plan.

Will I ever get over the pain of divorce?

Like any major loss, divorce brings with it a grieving process. How painful this experience is and how long it lasts can vary enormously. Even when a relationship has deteriorated to the point that both people feel quite certain of the need for a divorce, the pain of separation can still be very intense. There are many losses involved in a divorce, including children, identity, and emotional and financial security. Men can also grieve the loss of roles such as husband, partner or full-time dad.

In the throes of grief, it is easy to imagine that the pain will go on forever. However, with time the pain does diminish and eventually it becomes possible to move forward and put it in the past. Unfortunately it is not possible to say how long this will take. Grieving is a natural, human process for dealing with and coming to accept loss. Like the healing of the body, it occurs in its own time and cannot be hurried.

What is important is getting support to allow you to talk about what you are going through and to reduce the loneliness that many men feel during this time. This could be through seeing a face to face counsellor, attending a men’s group, or participating in MensLine’s callback counselling service. There are no short-cuts, but regular support can help you to reach the point sooner where you are able to say that your divorce is a part of your past, rather than your present.

My wife/partner and I have recently been fighting a lot. She has suggested counselling, but I’m not so sure about it. What should I do?

There are a number of common misconceptions that can make people reluctant to seek counselling for relationship difficulties. Some men fear that the counsellor will ‘take sides,’ especially if they feel that their partner is more able to express their feelings or to talk about the problems in the relationship. Counsellors are trained to remain neutral in their dealings with couples. If one partner is finding it more difficult to talk than the other, the counsellor will try to assist them to find ways to communicate better, and will not assume that their point of view is not important, or that they don’t have one.

Good couples counsellors will not have a fixed idea about the goal of counselling. Their goal is to assist you as a couple to clarify your goals and feelings; it is not necessarily to ‘keep you together’ at all costs. If you are clear that you wish to stay together, they will try to help you to improve your relationship. If you decide that you need to separate, they will respect this choice and support you.

Another fear some men express is the perception that counselling services are run ‘by women, for women.’ Couples counselling is not gender-biased. Couples counsellors recognise that men often have different perspectives and priorities than their female partner, and will work even-handedly with both. There are also many male counsellors working in this field, although the gender of the counsellor is less important than their ability to listen to and understand both of your points of view.
If you are concerned about couples counselling, individual counselling may be an option, either as a first step or as an alternative to couples counselling. Individual counselling, although focussing on one person, can still help to improve a relationship if it helps you to learn better communication skills or to manage your own emotions better.

Sometimes people are put off counselling by stories they hear about other peoples’ bad experiences. Although the great majority of counsellors are highly skilled, professional and well-trained, there is always the possibility of a particular counsellor not suiting you. It is important that you ‘click’ with your counsellor. If for whatever reason you feel that the counselling process is not working for you, and you have fed that back to the counsellor and nothing has changed, then you are entitled to look for another counsellor. By comparison, if a repairman did a bad job on your house, you would seek another tradesman. You wouldn’t assume that the house can’t be fixed.

Remember that relationship counselling is very unlikely to cause any harm to your relationship, and is far more likely to improve it. Most men who are initially anxious about the idea of counselling find it to be a positive and helpful experience once they give it a go. As an initial step, you may like to consider calling MensLine to get an idea about what counselling is like. For counselling services in your area, see our 
services directory.

My wife and I have recently had a baby. I work full time and I feel overwhelmed when my wife expects me to look after the baby after I get home from work. What should I do?

The key issue here is communication of expectations. When a couple have their first baby, they frequently don’t know what to expect and may underestimate how demanding the care of an infant can be. It is important therefore to negotiate some ground rules that are acceptable to both parties. There are no ‘right answers.’ Each couple must work out their own rules. Looking after a baby is very tiring and it is understandable that your wife would feel the need for a break at the end of the day, just as you may after a long day at work. The fact that both of you are tired at the same time can lead to a conflict between your needs. The solution might involve setting aside some time for both of you to take a break (say, an hour for you and an hour for her), or alternating the days when each of you takes responsibility for caring for the baby after work. You might also discuss how paid, casual child care could help to lighten the burden.

Arguing about who works harder and is more deserving of a break is a ‘blame game’ that usually only leads to both of you feeling under-appreciated and misunderstood. Listen to each other’s needs and try to approach the issue as cooperative partners rather than adversaries.

I suspect I may not be the father of my child. How can I find out?

The answer to this depends on whether or not the mother of your child agrees to provide a sample for DNA-testing. In most cases, the DNA of the mother, the child and the man is taken, although in exceptional circumstances a (less reliable) test can be done without the mother’s DNA. In the event that the mother agrees to provide a sample, and gives permission for a sample to be taken from the child, there are a number of private companies that provide paternity-testing services (see our 
services directory)

You can choose to have a test that will be accepted as evidence of paternity in court, or an ‘informal’ test. Legally admissible tests cost more because the DNA samples must be collected by an independent agent and there are more rigorous procedures.
If the mother of your child is not willing to provide a sample, you may be able to obtain a court order through the Family Court. You will need to seek legal advice about the correct procedure to obtain this order. You may have to establish a case for why you believe you may not be the father.

I want to get more time with my children. What can I do?

Any move towards renegotiating the amount of contact you have with your children should begin with an informal approach to your ex-partner to discuss the issue and request the changed arrangements. In the event that she refuses your request, you can seek professional mediation. A mediator is a neutral third party who can sit with you both to try to help you to arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement. You can find mediation services in your area by looking up our 
services directory. The final option if mediation fails is to seek an amendment of your contact/residency arrangements through the Family Court. Be aware that from July 31st, 2007 it will be a legal requirement that all parties go through a mediation process before bringing their case to the Family Court.

I am concerned that my ex-wife/partner is not looking after my children properly. What can I do?

The first step if you are concerned about the way your ex-wife or partner is looking after your children is to discuss the issue with her and tell her your concerns. Obviously this requires sensitivity. You are much more likely to get a satisfactory result if you approach her in a spirit of concern rather than blame. The following are some tips:

  • State your observations factually rather than emotively. Don’t exaggerate, but just state what you have noticed that concerns you.
  • Avoid blaming language and generalisations (“You never…” “You’re a bad mother/ a slob etc.”)
  • Focus on solutions rather than problems.
  • Rather than looking for your ex-wife’s or partner’s faults, focus on what support she might need to care for the children better. Can you help in any way? Are there any community services that could assist?
  • Try to reach a plan together.
  • Agree to meet again to see how things are going and whether the plan is working.

Obviously, in many situations, such ideal communication will not be possible due to many factors, including all the ‘baggage’ of your past relationship together. If you are unable to make any progress on the issue together, you could suggest seeking the services of a mediator to help you reach an agreement on a way forward. 
If you have serious concerns which you are unable to resolve, you might wish to approach a child abuse prevention organisation. These agencies are in most areas (look up ‘Child Protection’ in our 
services directory), and can look at developing a plan to support your ex-partner to provide better care for your children. 
Finally, if you have grounds to believe that your children are at serious risk or are being harmed or neglected by their mother, you can formally notify Child Protective Services about the situation. This does not always mean that the children will be removed from their mother’s care. This would only occur as a last resort, after other attempts to resolve the issue (through, for example, linking the mother with community support agencies) have failed.

Whenever I see my ex-wife/partner to pick up my kids, we end up having a fight, and I am concerned how this is affecting our children. How can I stop this?

Due to the ongoing anger and bitterness of some separations, picking up and dropping off children can sometimes be the point at which tensions flare up. Research shows that witnessing such disputes between parents can have a harmful effect on children. The first step if you wish to prevent this harm from occurring is to attempt to reach an agreement with your ex-wife/partner not to argue in front of your children. If there are issues that need to be discussed, agree to talk about them at some other time when the children are not present, for example on the telephone when the children are in their beds asleep. If this does not work, you could consider using a drop-off centre in your area. These centres allow parents to drop off their children for collection by the other parent at a safe place, so that the parents do not have to come into direct contact.  These can be found under “Contact Centres” in our
service directory.

My step-children won’t accept discipline from me. What can I do?

Parenting in step-families is complex, far more complex than in non-step families. Step-children frequently resent the fact that a stranger they have not chosen is entering their lives and presuming (in their minds) to assume the role of parent. They may – unfairly – blame the step-father for the loss of their relationship with their biological father. Furthermore there is no particular reason why step-parents and step-children should or will like, let alone love, one another. The absence of an affectionate or at least respectful relationship between step-parents and children can make discipline very difficult.
For you as a step-father, there are other issues. Many step-fathers are fearful of permanently losing their relationship with their step-child if they are too strict. This is rarely an issue between parents and their biological or adopted children, where the underlying strength of the bond is usually taken for granted. This anxiety can make them unsure about how strict to be. Children can sometimes pick up on this and exploit it.
All these factors can make you uncertain of your role in relation to step-children. Usually a heavy-handed approach backfires. Young children may submit to discipline from an authoritarian step-parent, but they will resent it and the control is likely to break down as they grow older. It is generally a mistake to try to discipline step-children too early. Discipline cannot truly be enforced without some foundation of trust and mutual respect.
Here are a few tips for helping to be more effective in disciplining your step-children:
Negotiate rules with your partner in advance so you aren’t sending mixed messages. Different ideas about the step-father’s role in disciplining children are a frequent cause of relationship friction in step-families. 
Avoid loud, blaming or abusive words (e.g. ‘Are you stupid?’ ‘You are very bad!’ etc.). Talk in a firm, clear manner without using put-downs. 
Have clear rules and try to get your step-children to agree on thesebefore you try to enforce them. 
Explain the reason for rules, don’t just say, ‘Because I say so!’ 
Fit the consequence to the offence. Over-the-top punishments only create resentment. 
Avoid getting into power struggles. Pick your battles carefully. 
Explain that you can never replace your step-children’s biological father and will never try to. 
Accept that you will make mistakes and sometimes be unfair. Just do your best! 
See the step-families links on our 
links page for more information about how to manage the complexities of step-parenting.

My teenage child is out of control. What should I do?

Parenting teenagers is a big challenge. The teenage years are a time in which young people experiment with their identities and challenge parental authority in preparation for establishing themselves as independent adults. Although uncomfortable for parents, the rebellion of adolescence is an absolutely necessary and important developmental stage.
However, this does not mean that teenagers do not need limits. Although they may complain about the boundaries placed around their behaviour, adolescents feel more secure if they know what the rules are. It is important to have firm guidelines about what your teenage child is and is not allowed to do, what time they should be home by, and so on.
On the other hand, research has shown that an authoritarian approach – the iron fist – usually backfires. If a young person feels that their parent is unreasonably harsh and does not respect their judgement or trust them, then they can react by rejecting the parent’s control altogether.
Here are some simple tips for effective parenting of teenage children:

  • Be aware of the fact that your child is growing and changing and adapt rules to suit their level of maturity and judgment. Loosening controls may feel scary at times, and their may be times when your child makes a mistake, but in doing so they will learn.
  • Try ‘active listening’ with your child. Active listening means listening without judgements, reactions or attempts to ‘fix’. Listen and try to understand the world your child lives in, and their experience and perspective.
  • Admit your mistakes and be prepared to compromise.
  • Don’t expect hard and fast rules about things like sex, alcohol and drugs to deal with these complex challenges. Talk honestly about these subjects and help your child to understand the risks so that they can make mature decisions when confronted by situations.
  • Remember what yougot up to when you were an adolescent. It may help you to keep perspective!
  • Admitting to your child that you have never parented a teenager before and therefore may need some help from them could establish a collaborative relationship with your teenager and demonstrate that you trust and value their input.

1300 78 99 78 – Available 24/7

Contact Mens Helpline

Helpline 1300 78 99 78
Mailing Address PO Box 2335
Footscray VIC 3011
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