May 21, 2010: SHARED parenting rules used by the Family Court in divorce cases were bad for many children, an Adelaide study has found.
The shared parenting model was introduced in 2006 by the Howard Government in response to lobbying by men’s rights groups, to replace the historical practice of the courts awarding custody to mothers.
A UniSA research paper based on interviews of children from divorced families has found the one-size-fits-all practice now favoured by the courts was focused on what parents wanted rather than children’s wellbeing.
“The Parliament (in 2006) was moving to address outspoken parents in the community but addressing parents’ concerns can ignore what the children want,” the author of the research paper, lecturer Dr Alan Campbell, said.
“When you get into the court system, issues like the safety of children, what they want and getting them into the best environment they can be in are subjugated to the parent’s needs.
“Children (in the interviews) felt betrayed that their interests were not considered in the court process.”
Dr Campbell said there had been “considerable” concern by academics that the law change would put some children into dangerous family situations.
The Federal Government is reviewing the changes because of, in part, the death of four-year-old Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman who, in 2009, was thrown to her death from a bridge, allegedly by her father.
Her mother had been too fearful to tell the courts her husband was violent because she thought the information would be used against her.
Dr Campbell said other children were physically safe but felt depressed, stressed, confused and suffered adjustment problems.
Dr Campbell said shared custody arrangements made without court intervention were often positive.
“What courts need to do is be allowed to look at a broad range of options, including shared parenting,” he said.
“The court needs to find out from the child – `this is what it is like for me, this is what I’m thinking and this is what I’m feeling’, then the adults.
##Special Note: Although not mentioned in this article, Dr Campbell is a close associate of Barbara Biggs, a well known activist who believes that all men are a predatory threat to their children. It should also be noted that these outcomes have been discredited by the largest study on this topic of its kind, released by the AIFS only months ago, involving longitudinal studies with over 22,000 parents and children. This study seems fanciful and loaded with opinion and driven by womens’ rights ideologies rather than by any credible research.