The current focus of the Family Court is on ‘best interest of the child’. This, I would say, is something that is very difficult to determine. Also it ignores the presence of the parents, both mother and father and since the mother invariably ends up with the child, this makes the Family Court appear to be anti-father.
One possible remedy for this is to have the Family Court focus on the parent-child relationship. For every child in question there would be two parent-child relationships, one with the mother and one with the father. At the start of family court proceedings, if mediation fails, and it looks like the court will have to make a decision, these relationships would be assessed by a psychologist. The aim of the family court then would be to preserve parent-child relationships, while at the same time attempt to resolve disputes. Lawyers would be instructed to remove all references in affidavits that attack the spouses parent-child relationship. Parents would be given firmer instructions than at present about denigrating the other parent in front of the children. It is inevitable in most family court disputes that there are feelings surrounding marital separation to deal with and these often overflow into the area of parent-child relationships. The family court should emphasize and educate about the need to keep these separate, maybe providing parents with workshops run by organizations such as ParentLine.
Benefits of the parent-child focus:
The court would be required to recognize the importance of the parent. This is especially beneficial to fathers, who, with the current focus on the child, tend to miss out, and feel that the court is anti-father. Getting on side with the father means that, the chances of material and emotional support from both parents and not just the ‘custodial’ parent is more likely. It also makes the chances of shared parenting work better. Ultimately it has got to be better for the child if both parent-child relationships are preserved, not to mention being better for the father and mother.
The parent-child focus would require the parents to work on having the (negative) marital issues that separate them be countered by the (positive) parent-child relationships that draw them together (or at least draw them to their children). Parents have to learn to separate their relationship with the ex-spouse from that which they have with their children. The family court is a large enough institution to create the culture for this to happen.
The parent-child focus would require some complex assessments and psychological involvement in order to guide the court. It would be hoped that time currently spent on time-wasting adversarial contests could instead be used for this task and that parents would learn to be better parents as a result of the process.