Shared Parenting Council of Australia – Media Release
At last some support for separated fathers who have always known in their hearts that seeing their children once a fortnight was meaningless, both for them and for their children. Last year, at a summit on fatherhood in Oxford, England, two internationally recognised parenting experts, Adrienne Burgess and Graham Russell cited the results of recent US research which showed that children of all ages, even infants and babies, need to see their non-residential fathers as often as possible.
It was frequent and regular contact or access that resulted in positive benefits for the children of separated parents. For very young children, that means being with their fathers often and for short periods. For older children, longer periods of involved interaction.
The most commonly imposed program of father-contact, fortnightly access, was found to be of little use to children, and in some cases, harmful and confusing. In one study, young adults voiced their dissatisfaction with that regime. In fact the research results showed that fortnightly contact does not contribute positively to the wellbeing of young adults. Experts now agree that for contact to enhance the personal development of a child, father and child need to take part, regularly, in a whole range of everyday activities, not just having fun but doing homework, cooking, cleaning, going to bed, getting up in the morning, talking together. Anything less is meaningless and artificial.
Many experts now agree that joint legal custody and substantial parenting time with both parents is the ideal arrangement for separated families.
The Shared Parenting Council of Australia supports the proposals for reform of the family law system contained in the Attorney General’s Discussion Paper. The insertion of a rebuttable presumption of joint parental responsibility in the Family Law Act, and the move towards equal parenting time, will strengthen the obligation of separated parents to put the needs of their children ahead of their own.
The Shared Parenting Council urges the government to make all necessary amendments to sections 60B,61A-D,68F and other relevant sections of the Family Law Act. Of particular importance will be definitions of “entrenched conflict” and “a starting point of 50/50 shared time parenting” as outlined in recommendation #5 of the parliamentary report on joint custody.
The Council believes that the establishment of Family Relationship Centres will do much to assist separated couples plan sensibly for life after divorce and keep them from the harmful effects of the adversarial court process. But proper funding and resources will be needed if these Centres are going to provide the quality services that families rely on early in their separation.