DIVORCE LAWS: by Warwick MarshNews Weekly
Fathers turning against Howard
, October 8, 2005
Five years ago, the separated fathers of Australia would have died in the ditch for John Howard. Now they want to lynch him, writes Warwick Marsh.Five years ago, the separated fathers of Australia would have died in the ditch for John Howard. Now they want to lynch him.
It was five years ago that John Howard announced that he was attracted to the idea of joint custody or shared parenting and that he would initiate an inquiry on the matter. This was a vote-changing issue and Howard won himself a new legion of fans amongst separated dads, second families and grandparents.
Five years on, after endless multi-million dollar enquiries and committee meetings, the bureaucrats, the lawyers, the social engineers and the liars have won the day.Field day for lawyers
The Government is likely to introduce this year the new Family Law Amendment Bill promoting so-called "joint responsibility" among separated parents. This is an idiotically vague notion that will give the lawyers a field day and means nothing on the ground. Even intact couples may not agree on every subject.
Joint responsibility to do what? Choose the schools and what church the children are going to go to? Sure, separated couples are going to happily compromise on which church to send the children to on Sunday ...
This was the bill that was going to introduce shared parenting as the desired outcome post-separation. The bill does nothing of the kind, and will perpetuate the abuses now occurring in the family law and child support arena.
If the Howard Government had any backbone, it would have legislated for shared care and responsibility of children as the norm post-separation. The proposal that equal parenting should be "considered" by the Family Court will make no difference to its current practice whatsoever. The court will continue to perpetuate the discredited sole-mother custody model, with all the pain and harm it creates to parents and children alike.
In August, the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled its report, entitled Exposure Draft of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005
Since then, all the positive coverage John Howard received when he announced his Government wanted to reform child custody in this country has gone.
At taxpayers' expense, the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock recently toured the country promoting the Government's proposed new 65 "Relationship Centres" - centres which will now add another layer for separating parents before they hit the Family Court.
Ruddock also peddled the official bureaucratic line that his Government is implementing the most sweeping reforms to family law in 30 years. The Government is doing nothing of the kind.
In his tour of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin and Adelaide, Ruddock was confronted by furious fathers wherever he went.
What was meant to be a triumphal tour to champion reforms to family law turned rapidly into a fiasco.
To many observers, Ruddock came across as poorly briefed and defending the indefensible.Nonsensical claims
During his grand tour, Ruddock has made nonsensical claims that the Family Court is not biased against men. It is outrageous to make these claims in front of an audience of fathers and their families, who know this claim to be a nonsense, and whose own children have been so savagely impacted by Family Court decisions.
While the Howard Government is spouting the rhetoric that it supports the right of children to a good relationship with both parents, not one child will see their dad for one extra day as a result of the new family law reform bill.
- Warwick Marsh is president of Fatherhood Foundation and is married with five children.