Shared Parenting - The Myth that it is in the Best Interests of Children


The Family Law Act amendments that came into force in Australia in 2006 with the emphasis on shared parental responsibility has failed to recognize the reality of the types of divorces that end up in the courts and resulted in a failure to protect our children, the most vulnerable group in our society. These hastily drafted amendments have served only to increase the conflict between already conflicted parents and led to a refocus of the act around the parents rights rather than what is in the best interest of the child.

The National Council for Children Post-Separation (NCCPS) believes that children benefit greatly from two separated, engaged parents that manage to put their own issues aside and focus on the best interests of the child. The fact remains that the great number of parents manage to do this without court intervention. However, NCCPS is concerned with the majority of cases in the Family Court where parents are highly conflicted and allegations of abuse and drug and alcohol addictions, domestic violence, and criminal behaviors are the norm. For these parents the new family law amendments ignore the reality that these parents are not acting in the best interests of the child but are pursuing their own selfish ends and often seeking to cause continuing anguish and harassment to their former spouse or partner.

Studies have shown that children who do the best have parents that cooperate. Shared care is more about the parent's rights rather than what is best for the child. The Child Support Agency has provided statistics that 50% of parents who get shared care end the regime within 1 year and some 3 years later only 20% of these parents have continued with shared care. There are probably many reasons why this is occurring -: perhaps the fight between conflicted parents has ended and so the tug-of-war over the child also ends, distance between the parental homes, work arrangements and the fact that children do not like moving house every week and will no doubt be constantly protesting at being uprooted from their friends and social activities every week. In fact it has been shown that in highly conflicted divorces shared care is damaging to children.

It was dangerous and unrealistic to introduce a presumption of shared care which does not reflect the fact that in reality parents do not have equal care in raising their children. There is generally always one parent who takes on the bulk of this work i,e, the primary caregiver and the new laws do not recognize their role in the lives of their children. In the majority of 'friendly' divorces shared care is not even attempted. If it doesn't work where parents are harmonious and working in the best interests of the child how can it work where parents are highly conflicted and there are allegations of abuse or violence. Quite simply it doesn't. Primary caregivers should have their care and responsibility for the child recognized by the courts and children should have the right to a secure and stable environment. Conversely there are some parents who take no interest whatsoever in the upbringing of their children and have never formed a 'meaningful relationship' with their child, but after separation they apply for residency or equal contact as a means to evade their financial responsibilities or in order to maintain control over their ex-spouses and children.

Of course all of this does not take into account instances where there was family violence or sexual assault. Often one partner finally flees the abuser to find themselves hauled through the family courts. Of course domestic violence and child sexual abuse is and always has been extremely hard to prove due to the fact that childrens testimony is seen as unreliable and domestic violence mostly occurs behind closed doors with no third party witnesses. Added to this are the fathers rights group's allegations that primary carer's invent these stories in order to alienate fathers. Although parental alienation syndrome and the fact that fictional sexual abuse claims have been disclaimed and shown to be false through independent studies, the fathers rights groupís continue to parade 'evidence' which is often sourced from a survey of their own members. So yet again the abused are open to attack through the courts and in fact risk losing their children if they raise abuse allegations that are found to be untrue.

NCCPS is committed to protecting children and primary care-givers (male or female). We are actively working to encourage of a review of the presumption of shared care.

Below are a number of links to papers, studies etc that provide irrefutable evidence that shared care does not work and is not in the best interests of children.

If you have any other papers, studies etc that you would like us to add to this page please email us at info@nccps.org.au.

PAPERS ON HOW SHARED CARE DOESN'T WORK AND WHY


1. Children and Families in Transition, Dale Bagshaw

2. Post Separation Parenting and Financial Settlements, Belinda Fehlberg

3. Busting the Fatherhood Myth, Lily DeVilliers

4. Cos if a child was fairly strong on not seeing a parent, there would have to be something wrong, Dr Alan Campbell

5. System Failure and Children at Risk: When Family Law, Mental Illness and Family Violence Come Together, Dr Elspeth McInnes

6. Family Law: Dire Consequences for Children, Charles Pragnell

7. Cautionary Notes on the Shared Care of Children in Conflicted Parental Separation, Jennifer McIntosh and Richard Chisholm

8. Single Mothers and System Responses to Violence Against Women and Children, Dr Elspeth McInnes

9. Stalking Through the Courts, Janet Normalvanbreucher

10. The Attitudes of Separated Resident Mothers in Australia to Children Spending Time with Fathers, By Dr Elspeth McInnes

11. Shared Parental Responsibility, Family Violence and the Best Interests of Children in Family Law, Dale Bagshaw

12. Domestic Violence marginalized and children's needs compromised in the construction of children's best interests, Dr Amanda Shea Hart

13. Single Mothers, Social Policy and Gendered Violence, Elspeth McInnes

14. In the Best Interests of the Children: A Perspective of the 2006 Amendments to the FLA, The Hon. John Faulks, Deputy Chief Justice of the FCA

15. Sociopath Fathers: The Charming Killer, Charles Pragnell

16. Sound Research or Wishful Thinking in Child Custody Cases? Lessons Learnt from Relocation Law, Carol S Bruch

17. The Challenges of Securing Human Rights to Safety in Australian Family Law Frameworks, Dr Elspeth McInnes

18. Shared Parental Responsibility in Australia's Family Law System, Dr Elspeth McInnes

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