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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.

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.

Fuel

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 272014
 

child-support-agency-mistakes-to-avoid-themWhile Tony Abbott was on the hustings during the last election campaign, one of the lesser known commitments he made was to hold a Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Child Support system, if he won office.

Well win he did, but the exact nature of his election commitment was never really made clear. Why was another child support inquiry required? Who exactly was the existing system unfair against? Was it the dads, the mums, the kids, or was it everyone?

Speak to most dads and they will tell you that the Child Support system in this country is seriously flawed, with unrealistically high child support sums being demanded, in many cases in a punitive fashion, from over-stretched fathers who have already lost the house and a significant amount of their assets in divorce proceedings.

These same fathers are then hit by a calculated child support sum that over-inflates the cost of raising children in one household, while completely ignoring the cost of raising children in another.

And for most dads, this is the real issue with child support in this country. Its not about not paying your part of your children’s expenses. It’s not about wanting to see their kids only to reduce the child support you pay. It’s not about denying your ex any child support as a form of revenge or financial abuse. It has nothing to do with these sordid and fanciful notions that seem to exist only in the minds of apparent expert academics, or the always quotable spokespersons for one or another single-mothers group.

However if you attend the current Parliamentary Inquiry into Child Support or read through its daily transcripts, you will see that like all family law inquiries, this has been flooded by the same-old self-proclaimed experts, with the same old claims and demands.

For instance, Relationships Australia has told the inquiry that some parents are insisting on shared custody just so they can avoid paying child support, as if having a child living with you on a shared custody basis is somehow free or void of expenses.

Further to these claims, the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children has told the inquiry that some fathers seek custody of children one day a week, or every second weekend, just to get a 24 per cent “discount’’ on maintenance payments. It is a sad reflection on this advocacy group that that don’t realise that fathers too want to see their children…because they are their children, just like mothers.

“We remain completely unconvinced that 24 per cent discount in child-support payments in exchange for as little as 13 per cent care is fair or equitable,’’ the council’s submission says. “We are concerned that the significant and disproportional outcome is an economic driver, which is contradictory to the ‘best interest of the child’.’’

According to this group, maintaining a child’s bedroom, or a wardrobe of clothes, or a computer, or paying for your child’s weekend activities, and in most cases all of the above, is completely free and without cost, if you happen to be a father.

Listening to the shrill of commentary from the same old voices, this Inquiry, just like Tony Abbott’s commitment prior to the last election, is an exercise in futility, not meant to fix any specific problem. As it tries to be all things to all people, this Inquiry will end up with a eclectic mix of policy suggestions, to the anger of many and dissatisfaction of all, but at the end of the day it would do little to address the genuine concerns of many men, women and children forced to deal with this lumbering government instrument that like most things with government, was a good idea to begin with, but has gone and cannot be fixed by wishy-washy promises from politicians who don’t understand the problem to begin with.

Ash Patil

 

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 062014
 

single-mother-centrelink-benefitsJoe Hockey has condemned a “crippling” welfare culture that weighs down the federal budget, and warned that government benefits will not be treated as a right when the nation faces a $50 billion deficit.

The Treasurer told The Australian some benefits had soared to the point where it required tax revenue from three average workers to keep payments flowing to a single welfare recipient.

Predicting new burdens on taxpayers unless the payments were curbed, he urged Australians to accept there was no longer an “endless supply of money” to support government benefits. “The suggestion somehow that payments from government are a right is not correct — and governments themselves have been guilty of creating that culture over many years,” he said.

The warnings are based on government analysis that reveals some single parents are receiving $55,000 a year in tax-free benefits, including a pension, family tax benefits and study assistance. The calculations show that three workers on average salaries would pay about $17,000 in tax each to cover the sole parent’s benefits. Hitting back at claims his budget was unfair, the Treasurer countered the idea that taxes should be raised to match more than $7bn in welfare cuts so that every group carried the same share of the budget burden.

Mr Hockey said he “totally” rejected the parallel between taxes and benefits in some of the criticism of the budget, given that one took money away from workers while the other did not.

“When I increase revenue I’m taking money out of people’s pockets — and they’ve earned that money,” he said. “Whereas when you freeze the increase in the amount the government is paying, we’re saying ‘we’re just not giving you more than what you’re getting’. That is exactly what I’m trying to do.”

The remarks, in an interview yesterday, are another sign of the government’s hard line in the political fight over the federal budget when it is being urged to compromise to get controversial reforms through the Senate.

A day after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull dined with Clive Palmer in an attempt to smooth relations, Mr Hockey ­appeared to mock the Palmer United Party leader by calling him “Professor Palmer” during question time.

Labor escalated its attacks on the budget, including a change in 2017 to slow the growth of the age pension, although the payments to 2.4 million age pensioners will continue to rise in line with the consumer price index.

Labor finance spokesman Tony Burke yesterday rejected changes to the pension, welfare, Medicare and university fees.

“The fight is very simple — it’s not like they’ve wedged Labor with this budget,” he told ABC TV.

“They’ve drawn the line ex­actly against our core values and, in terms of issues to fight on, we are on the strongest ground and on the issues that define us.”

Behind Mr Hockey’s warning on welfare is the government’s analysis of the benefits paid to sole parents such as a single mother who complained to the Treasurer about the budget. The exchange with the woman, who said she was voting Labor as a result of the spending cuts, prompted advisers to examine the benefits going to those in her situation. The Treasurer’s office estimated she would receive $54,417 in government payments including the Parenting Payment, both forms of Family Tax Benefit, several supplements, rent assistance and education supplements.

The calculations include the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance, which would be $15,120 a year assuming she was using the help to put her children in care for 40 weeks each year when she worked about 27 hours a week.

Only two of the payments would be reduced as a result of the budget, the government said: the Pensioner Education Supplement, worth $1622, and the Income Support Bonus, worth $214.

According to the government’s analysis, the sole parent would receive $53,581 a year tax-free after the budget, compared with $54,417 before the budget.

The government’s calculations do not include looming changes to family tax benefits, where rates will be frozen and families will lose payments once their children pass the age of six, as well as a freeze on increases in parenting payments.

Mr Hockey said Australians had to accept that family tax ­benefits were not meant to be income but were a “supplement” for workers.

“That is why the culture of entitlement is crippling, because people assume it is income,” he said. “But family tax benefits are not an income — they are a supplement to income, whereas a pension is an income replacement. And that’s why pensions will continue to increase with inflation. Pensions will always increase because they’re an income replacement.”

Central to the attacks on the budget is the argument that it takes $7.4bn in family tax benefits away from those on low incomes while extracting only $3.1bn from wealthier Australians with the deficit tax on earnings above $180,000 a year.

The Australian Council of Social Service estimates that more than half the budget savings come from low and middle-income earners, including cuts to family payments and higher costs to visit the doctor or get subsidised ­medicines.

National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling principal research fellow Ben Phillips has warned that those on lower incomes are doing the “heavy lifting” in reducing the deficit.

Mr Hockey argued that Australians had to give up their expectations fostered by previous governments, including the Howard government, when it designed the family tax benefits.

The Treasurer countered the idea that people “deserved” payments but he backed the role of the state in helping those in need.

Jun 012014
 
angie-hooper-newstart

Angie Hooper works to supplement her Newstart payment.

LOLLIPOP lady Angie Hooper dreams of a better job. One with decent pay and regular hours, so she can get off welfare and still collect her son after school. A job with holidays, sick leave — perhaps even an understanding boss who lets her stay home when Dylan’s sick.

The 32-year-old single mother from Melbourne has been stuck on the Newstart allowance, knocked back repeatedly for flexible jobs that fit around caring for a 10-year-old boy with no help from family.

Hooper works as a school crossing supervisor, paid $20 an hour for two hours’ work — with no holidays or sick leave. And she is worried sick about the Abbott government’s decision to cut her family payments.

“I’ve got experience in hospitality but they always need people on evenings and weekends mostly and I can’t work then,’’ she told Inquirer yesterday.

“I went for one job in a bowling alley where the manager told me that I’m exactly what he was looking for — except for the fact I’m a single mother because I would need time off when my son was sick and I’d be unreliable.’’

Hooper’s dilemma — trying to care for her son while competing against no-strings school-leavers and backpackers for scarce jobs — will be the achilles heel of Tony Abbott’s strategy to get more mothers back in the workforce.

The government will strip $7.3 million from family tax benefits across the next four years, giving low-income mothers a financial nudge to work harder, while offering high-paid breadwinners an incentive to keep their income low.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra has calculated the cuts will strip $122 a week from the budget of a single-income couple with two kids, earning $65,000.

The average-wage family will lose $1600 a year in Family Tax Benefit Part A, $3367 in Part B and $1392 in the School Kids Bonus. A single parent dependent on the dole, now receiving $32,855 a year in payments, will lose $4243 a year by 2017, plunging them below the poverty line.

The cuts are intended, according to budget papers, to “encourage increased workforce par­ticipation by primary carers when their youngest child reaches primary school age’’.

Or as Joe Hockey bluntly put it in his budget speech: “Staying at home should be a parent’s choice, but there are limits on how much support the taxpayer can give.’’

John Howard, the self-described “father of the family tax benefit system’’, has already proclaimed the cuts to be a tax increase. “Family tax benefits are not welfare payments, they’re tax breaks for couples who have children,’’ he said after the budget.

“We all know it costs money to have children and it never ends.’’

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick declared yesterday that forcing mothers back to work is “devaluing motherhood’’.

“We’re saying the work a woman does caring isn’t important,’’ she tells Inquirer.

“Who’s going to do the caring? Increasingly it’s not just about children, it’s about elder care. Who’s going to care for ageing parents and elderly neighbours? The fact is it’s got to be both men and women.’’

Broderick says mothers — and especially single parents — find it harder to get work because employers prefer the “24/7’’ worker with no family responsibilities.

“In workplaces in Australia, the ideal worker is available 24/7, has no visible caring responsibilities and the result is preferably a male,’’ she says.

“If you don’t fit the box it’s going to be more problematic to find a job.’’

Bob Birrell, a demographer with the Centre for Population and Research at Monash University, notes that mothers who have been out of the workforce for years will soon be competing for jobs against the under-30s — who are being denied welfare payments for six months — as well as 1.2 million backpackers and temporary migrants with work rights.

“They are desperate for work and willing to accept wages and conditions that mothers are not in a position to take on,’’ he says.

“The Coalition is proposing to force young people and mothers into a slack labour market at the same time as it is running a record high migration program.’’

Even if the jobs are there, working parents need to pick up their kids at 3pm or pay up to $30 a day for after-school care.

Parents get at least half that money back — more if they are on low incomes — but after-school and holiday care can be hard to find.

Australia has 3.6 million kids at school, yet only 208,000 attend before or after-school care and just 135,000 go to vacation care, which covers up to 15 weeks a year of school holidays.

In Sydney, parents have reportedly tried to bribe their way to the top of the waiting list. The National Out of School Hours Association estimates that after-school centres can cater for one in every three primary students.

“Ten years ago it would have been 10 per cent of the school and now it’s 30 per cent,’’ spokeswoman Kylie Brannelly says. “If demand were to go up to half the school, we would not have the infrastructure to do that.’’

High school students have no after-school care, so the only alternative for working parents is to knock off early or leave “latchkey kids’’ as young as 12 at home alone — which is illegal in some states.

The scarcity and cost of after-school care is the pragmatic reason so many mothers choose to work part time. Barely one-quarter of Australia’s working women have full-time jobs; the rest work an average of 17 hours a week.

The Grattan Institute has found the cost of childcare to be a powerful disincentive for mothers to work more than three days a week before their kids start school. A woman earning $40,000 a year with two children in childcare takes home $156 for three days’ work after tax and daycare fees. If she works a five-day week she takes home just $49 more for the extra two days.

Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley says the $100,000 cut-off for FTB will encourage breadwinners to cut back their hours or look for tax breaks.

“It gives substantial incentives to play silly games, working a few less hours so you earn just less than $100,000,’’ he says.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Helen Conway points out that mothers who work are less likely to retire in poverty, as they build up their superannuation. She lectures employers that those who offer a work-life balance and flexible hours will reap the rewards of loyal and appreciative staff, and a deeper talent pool. When mothers do head back to paid work, Conway argues, men must not lumber them with all the “homework’’ of domestic chores and childcare.

“Women naturally pick up the tab at home,’’ she tells Inquirer. “Burnout after a couple of years is not the ideal outcome.’’

Single mum and part-time La Trobe University law student Jessica van Dyk is fretting over how she will pay her bills without the Pensioner Education Supplement worth $31 a week. She volunteers at a legal centre, where other single mothers have confided that they regretted leaving their violent partners, “because it was better being beaten up behind closed doors than having to worry about how to feed their kids’’

Read More

Nov 062013
 
family-court

JUDGMENT delays in Australia’s cash-strapped family court system have blown out further as judges move to tackle the rising number of cases involving family violence in Australia.

With the Abbott Government foreshadowing $30 million in cuts to the family courts over the next four years, the outlook remains bleak for those families waiting for an outcome.

According to the latest annual reports on the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court, applications involving family violence have soared to 15 per cent to 403 in the past year.

Family Court of Australia Chief Justice Diana Bryant believes the five per cent jump in applications for final orders involving a family violence notice is due to its definition being widened in last year’s changes to the Family Law Act.

Reports of abuse and violence had been in steady decline in the four years leading up to the reforms.

But new 28-day deadlines for dealing with the matters have had “significant impact” on court resources.

“The requirement of the court to find further efficiencies means that we must continue to look for ways to reduce costs, despite many years of implementing numbers savings initiatives,” Justice Bryant said.

“Considering that the courts have undergone a relentless number of reviews all seeking to identify ways to reduce costs, the reality is that there are very limited reductions to be made without having a serious impact on service delivery, particularly given that more than half of the Family Court’s costs are fixed such as salaries for judicial officers and property expenses.”

A total of $12.2 million in wages was shared among the 30 judges of the Family Court in the last financial year, according to the report.

Justice Bryant said the role of the court was being reduced to a “smaller court which manages all appeals and deals with the most complex famil law cases”.

While the court boasts a high clearance rate for cases, there remains a significant number of cases still awaiting judgment after two years.

Figures showed 11 per cent of litigants still had no judgment after a two-year wait, with 49 per cent of cases waiting for more than three months.

The court met only three out of seven KPIs, failing to deliver on promised final and interim order targets.

A total of 3,067 final orders and 3,419 interim orders were handed down.

The majority of cases settled before final judgment, with 14.6 per cent needed a judgment.

Property disputes were the most common – a total of 52 per cent of all cases requiring a ruling.

Meanwhile, the number of appeals fell 13 per cent to 326, with a slight increase in males (60 per cent) over females (37 per cent) seeking to overturn decisions.

The caseload is in stark contrast to the “workhorse” Federal Circuit Court, which litigated 89,599 cases.

The work was shared between 64 judges, including 23 females and 41 males.

They met two of performance goals, with less than one per cent of matters litigated being subject to complaint (0.19 per cent) and 60 per cent resolved before trial.

But the court fell short of a deadline of six months in 90 per cent of cases being finalised, managing only an 83 per cent completion rate.

A total of 172 complaints were also lodged, including 81 for late judgments.

Oct 142012
 

julia-gillard-problem-with-menThe Prime Minister has an serious issue: how to get the support of Australian men, especially older men.

Gillard obviously doesn’t have enough men in her life. She is surrounded by a cabinet dominated by females, most of those carried into positions of power by the insidious Emily’s list, a gender aligned organisation with one single-minded goal, to remove men from positions of power, and replace them with women.

We’ve heard a lot about Tony Abbott’s problem with women voters – the polls document it and MPs report it from their electorates.

So what about the Julia story with men and her long reported affiliation with anti-male feminist doctrines?

Surely if Mr Abbott can be accused as being a misogynist, one should look more carefully at the the often referred to Misandry of the Prime Minister herself, which according to many account dwarfs to alleged antics of the Opposition leader.

However, let’s first take a look at the historical leanings of the genders, and perhaps it would give us an insight into how Australian men of today will react to the ascorbic references to gender, that Gillard is making her mainstay and is turning ugly politics into an artform, for her benefit alone.

Since the 2010 election, according to Nielsen polling, Labor’s primary vote has been 3 points higher, on average, among women than among men (32 to 29 per cent). The Coalition primary vote has been 3 points higher among men than women (48 to 45 per cent).

Gillard’s approval has been an average of 7 points lower among men than women (36 to 43 per cent). Her man problem also comes through when people are asked who they prefer as Labor leader out of Gillard and Kevin Rudd: in September, Gillard’s rating among men was 31 per cent compared with 42 per cent among women, while Rudd was supported by 60 per cent of men and 49 per cent of women.

The gender gap in voting is especially interesting on two fronts. Gillard is the country’s first female PM. And her arrival in power saw the re-emergence, in different form, of a gender divide that had disappeared.

The gender story is told in Ian McAllister’s The Australian Voter (2011). Historically, women were more conservative than men in their voting, but that changed as their life experiences altered.

From the 1970s, the gender gap started to close. In 1967, it was 9 percentage points – meaning women were 9 per cent less likely than men to vote Labor.

By the 1990 election (Bob Hawke versus Andrew Peacock), it was only 2 points, having declined steadily over the two decades. But then along came PM Paul Keating and it jumped to 6 per cent in 1993 and 5 per cent in 1996.

When you bracket Abbott and Keating together, it is easy to see what turns off some women voters – aggression. Keating was loved by the cognoscenti as a great practitioner of political theatre. But out in the lounge rooms of the nation, those high octane lines just sounded feral.

Once Keating had been dispatched, the gender gap fell to 2 per cent in the Coalition’s favour in the 1998 election, and then declined to nothing in 2001, 2004 and 2007. In 2010, it opened up again – to 7 per cent – but now it was in Labor’s favour, the first time that had happened in Australian federal elections.

Rebecca Huntley is a director of Ipsos, which undertakes qualitative social research. She also did her PhD on the gender gap in the 1983 and 1993 elections.

In focus groups ”older men are more uncomfortable with her [Gillard] than younger men”, she says. Men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are more likely to have had working mothers, women bosses, a woman in authority in their office team, than men in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

”The older men have been known to describe Gillard ‘like a school mistress telling me off’,” Huntley says.

She wonders whether some of the gender gap is policy driven. ”Do her policies appeal more to women than men?”

One big issue coming through from males in the groups is the two-speed economy, and whether enough help is being given to sectors that are suffering, especially manufacturing.

The carbon tax also might be more off-putting to men, she says. (Carbon questions in the July Nielsen poll showed men only very slightly more likely to be concerned than women.)

In general, Huntley says, it is hard to disentangle attitudes to Gillard as a female prime minister from people’s disappointment in the Labor government. The former emerged as a negative only after people felt she was not doing a good job.

Strategists on both sides will be anxiously waiting for the polling evidence about the effect of Gillard’s fighting speech last week labelling Abbott a misogynist. While it has been received with enthusiasm by some women, what will men feel about it?

Social researcher Hugh Mackay predicts that men who haven’t signed up to the ”gender revolution” of the past 40 years and still have the attitude of ”Why can’t blokes be in charge?” will be infuriated by it. But younger men and men influenced by their relationships with women are likely to be impressed, Mackay believes.

Tactically, Gillard is caught between the merits of adopting what might be dubbed a ”masculine” style (slug it to them) or taking a more ”feminine” consensual approach. Last week she went for the former. There was a certain irony in this, given that she was talking gender issues. When she gets into full fighting mode, Gillard has a touch of the Keating about her, which has its dangers but has appealed to feminist supporters.

One point is worth remembering in the debate about gender politics and the differences in gender support for the two leaders. There is cross-gender agreement among voters that they don’t much like either of the present leaders.

Oct 052010
 

courts-treat-fathers-differentlyMEN are being unfairly treated during custody battles according to an Albany father.

The man whose case is still in court cannot be named, but he alleges fathers in the system were being treated like common criminals.

The man said he had been charged with child abuse but felt the allegations were baseless.

He felt the issues were no more than infrequent domestic arguments, and he cannot get help or advice on the matters.

The children in question have been in the care of their mother since December, 2009. He alleges she is a drug addict.

“These children have been taken out of my care without any proof,” he said.

“The matter has gone to the Department of Child Protection (DCP) but as far as I am aware has not gone on to the police.”

When police protectors were contacted, they were unaware of the family in question.

“She (ex-partner) keeps lying to these government departments and putting the children into dangerous situations,” the father said.

“I’ve hit a brick wall and these departments seems to just want to protect her.

“I am a decent parent and the way I’ve been treated is disgraceful.

“No-one is doing their job and if DCP don’t start doing their job they will have blood on their hands.”

Family Law Action Group (FLAG) member Simon Hunt said fathers were often removed from their children’s lives on an interim basis.

“Their only prospect is to convince a biased court (and biased practitioners) that the situation should change and their role restored, which is ridiculously difficult,” he said.

“The notion of shared parenting after divorce is seen as radical and only possible in rare circumstances where both parents get on very well.

“The Family Court actually cite ‘conflict’ as the reason why one parent – usually the father – must be excluded from their children.”

Mr Hunt said child custody litigation was about winners and losers with very few mothers able to cope with the idea of being excluded from their children’s lives.

The DCP would not make comment on the case but denied men were being unfairly discriminated against in cases of alleged domestic violence and custody battles.

“The department observes a stringent non-discrimination policy to provide fairness and equity to all Western Australian families and ensures that these people who need direct assistance have an opportunity to receive that assistance,” a spokesperson said.

“The department conducts rigorous interviews and risk assessments to determine the best accommodation and care option for children.

“In some instances the child will be placed in care outside of the immediate or extended family.”

DCP said various services were available through government and non-government agencies including Anglicare, Regional Counselling and Mentoring Services.

“There are also a number of group counselling sessions including Changing Tracks for male domestic violence perpetrators, post-separation services and substance abuse counselling provided primarily by not-for-profit organisations,” the spokesperson said.

“In the Albany area, men are able to access individual counselling through a number of local private practitioners.”

ABIGAIL WORKMAN

http://albany.yourguide.com.au/news/local/news/general/courts-treat-men-poorly-father/1943811.aspx?storypage=0

Apr 142010
 

Monday 12 April, 10.00am – Media Release: Class Action in Hobart’s Federal Court.

In an unprecedented Legal action against the State Government of Tasmania the noted Constitutional Counsel, Dr. John Walsh of Brannagh will represent a large and growing number of families, men, women and children who have been victimised by the unconscionable Tasmanian Family Violence Act of 2004.

Introduced by the former Socialist-Feminist Attorney General Judy Jackson, the Act encourages the incarceration of innocent men in Risdon Prison and women in Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison on a simple unsubstantiated accusation, without evidence and without bail. Unfortunately, it is men who are in the majority who are arrested and released without conviction when their cases come before the Courts, having served unwarranted Remand time based on perjury.

The current legislation is causing the most severe long-term psychological damage to our children, shatters families, destroys reputations, careers and businesses and leads to the increase in the male suicide rate (which is 8 deaths per day in Australia, minimum) as well as demolishes the family unit.  Tasmania is now the suicide capitol of Australia.

J.A.I.L – Juries against Illegal Laws – are demanding the overthrow of the Family Violence Act of 2004 as Unconstitutional and seeks damages of $200 million to be paid to the sufferers of this draconian illegal legislation. In addition to Australian Constitutional issues there are issues with the Separation of Powers, Illegal Police Powers, presumption of innocence and a fair trial. The Act is also contrary to The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Sex Discrimination Act.

This contemptible legislation conflicts with the Constitution of Australia and with the fundamental rights of all Australians.

The divorce industry is now worth a staggering $6 Billion dollars a year to the legal fraternity and their single expert witness sycophant supporters and they will fight tooth and nail to ensure that legislation of this type remains irregardless to the cost to the “Little Man” and the destruction of the family unit.

Mr. Ray Escobar, the Associations President, will be in attendance at the Court with Dr Walsh of Brannagh and a group of representative claimants and supporters.

A peaceful demonstration will be held on the Courthouse steps at 9.30 to 10.30am. Superman will be in attendance. We would urge those who really want to seek justice to support our Association.
Traffic in Davey Street will not be interfered with by protesters.

 “Save Our Families”

Kindest Regards,

For further details please contact:
Ray Escobar
President
166 Henry Street
Launceston
Tasmania 7250
Phone: 03 63 434173
Email: rjescobar1@bigpond.com
Web Site: www.jailtasmania.com