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  • Children demand double love of parents
  • By Danielle Teutsch
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • 21/12/2003 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 75 articles in 2003 )
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Children of split families would prefer to divide their time equally between their divorced parents, a new study has found.

The findings come just before the much-anticipated report of a parliamentary inquiry into child custody arrangements is released on December 29.

The inquiry has spent six months looking at whether shared parenting should be the norm after divorce, among other custody matters, and has been the subject of bitter debate among politicians, judges and lobby groups.

The Sydney University study, Adolescent's Views On The Fairness Of Parenting And Financial Arrangements After Separation, by Judy Cashmore, Patrick Parkinson and Judi Single from the faculty of law, adds weight to Prime Minister John Howard's view that children are better off spending equal time with both parents after divorce.

Mr Howard had added fuel to the debate at the beginning of the inquiry by supporting the 50-50 care model - to the delight of men's groups and the chagrin of women's groups.

The study is one of the first in Australia to look at how children feel about spending time with their parents, and money matters. A national sample of 60 teens aged 12 to 19 was interviewed at length.

When they were asked how parents should care for children after divorce, the most common answer was "equal" or "half and half".

Half the young people surveyed also said they wanted more time with their non-residential parents.

Professor Parkinson said the results were striking. "It suggests that adolescents are willing to move between homes, at least in principle," he said.

"Not only do they want more time with both parents - they think it's very important to give both parents equal time."

Professor Parkinson said the research suggested the '70s custody model in which children saw their parents "every second weekend and school holidays" was outdated.

The study showed teens wanted to be consulted about where they wanted to live after their parents' divorce - and the more they had a say in their living arrangements, the happier they were likely to be.

It also found children had an acute sense of fairness in money matters. They did not like it if one parent appeared to have a better standard of living than another, or if the children from another relationship received bigger Christmas presents, for example.

Despite the study's findings, the authors do not support Mr Howard's bid to reform family law so that there is a "rebuttable presumption" of shared parenting, saying that every family was different and care arrangements needed to be worked out individually.

However, Ms Cashmore, a child psychologist, said Australia was slowly rethinking divorce, so that custody of children was not seen as "ownership" and dads did not feel like the losers.

She said the important message of the study was that children's views should be taken into account after a divorce.

"Sometimes parents are so wound up in their own hurt and anger they find it difficult to do that," she said.

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