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  • Separated fathers face access changes after Chisholm report
  • By Caroline Overington
  • The Australian
  • 28/01/2010 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: MrNatural ( 12 articles in 2010 )
SEPARATED fathers are not entitled to a 50-50 time split with their children, and legislation introduced by the Howard government in 2006 should be amended to make that clear.

A 300-report by retired family court judge Richard Chisholm recommends five changes to the so-called “shared parenting” law, which he described as a “tangle” that had taken the focus off “what is best for the children”.

The hotly anticipated Chisholm report, which was ordered by Attorney-General Robert McClelland after the shocking death of Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman, who was thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge last year, says the shared parenting law has made it difficult for women to raise allegations of violence in the Family Court system.

A separate, 1000-page report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, also released this afternoon, says the majority of lawyers now believe that the 2006 reforms favour fathers over mothers, and parents over children.

The two reports into shared parenting - plus a third report, by the Family Law Council - were released simultaneously by Mr McClelland this afternoon.

Mr McClelland said the government would review all reports before making changes but agreed that a false idea had taken hold in the community that fathers were entitled to a 50-50 time split.

“How we address that is what we've now got to decide,” he said.

The release of the reports comes three years after the Howard government introduced the idea that the care of children should be shared between parents, after divorce.

The shared parenting law was described at the time as the most significant change to family law in Australia since the Family Law Act (1975) was introduced by the Whitlam government.

The law requires the Family Court to presume that a child's best interests are served by having a relationship with both parents after divorce. It also asks the court to consider equal time for parents.

Fathers hailed the move, saying they had too long been cut out of their children's lives, because courts had been biased against them. Figures suggested that one in four children had no contact at all with their father, after divorce.

The laws have come in for fierce criticism from women's groups, and academics, who argue that it may not be in the best interests of children.

The law punishes women who raise allegations of violence that they cannot prove in court, by lumping them with the entire cost of proceedings. All three reports found that women had become reluctant to raise allegations of violence, if they had no proof - such a police report - that violence had occurred.

To read the Chisolm report click here


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