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  • Hope amid the trauma
  • The Herald Sun
  • 26/11/2003 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 75 articles in 2003 )
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Be Grateful Today!
The Herald Sun asked readers to share their experiences of the child custody and access system.
Dozens of people responded and here is an edited selection of their letters. Some names have been changed for legal reasons.

Talking it over is the answer
I AM a father of two, a boy and a girl. My marriage broke up just over seven years ago when the children were seven and nine years old. It was the darkest period in my life and I felt I was trapped in an emotional black hole. My ex-wife and I got counselling before we separated and continued with it after the separation. We didn't get back together again but it laid the foundation for becoming good friends again. Even though my ex-wife initiated the break up, I realised that I'm equally responsible for it. Blaming one another doesn't help to resolve anything. It is very tempting to use the children to get back at your ex, especially if she's in another relationship, but this would only hurt the children. Rebuilding your relationship with your ex-partner sets an example for the children that communication is the only way to find a solution. I have a new partner and we all get on with each other really well. I have my children every second weekend and it works really well.

New partners a grey area
A TOPIC that has not been mentioned is the role of the new partners in the mum's life after a divorce. Do these men have to go to court to have some time alone with their new partner's kids?

Counselling an investment
I AGREE with the views expressed by the kids in your article. Joint custody and equal time wouldn't be beneficial for them. Kids need some sort of stability after a relationship breakdown and living in the house they're used to helps a lot. I believe the cost to society and the people involved would be a lot less if counselling was covered by Medicare. I paid a lot of money for my choice of dealing with my problems, but it was worth every cent.

Justice comes at high price
OUR daughter was born as a result of a "one-off'' liaison. My case has been running for two years, with a long way to go. It has cost me more than $27,000 in solicitor's, barrister's and psychologist's fees. I expect it will have cost my daughter's mother similar amounts. I am buoyed by the psychologist's report and believe the court has done its best in the circumstances to allow contact. On the other side, I am aware that the court is grossly under-resourced, meaning there can be delays of up to six months in getting to the court. This results in inflamed tempers and inadequate decisions. Parents who don't wish to co-operate don't need to. They are able to drag matters out. I am lucky that I can afford to continue through the courts. Most could not. Justice is only available to those who can afford the money, time and patience.

No price on access to kids
AS a single mum for the past 11 years (children now 17, 16, 13) I write from a different angle. I have always been of the belief that child support payments and custody should be two separate issues. I have never restricted my children's father from access, in fact for many years he chose not to see them. Although he is in gainful employment, he had paid no child support for many years. When he did decide a few years ago to make a comeback in their lives, I encouraged them to get to know him. To all the dads out there that won't pay, you are only denying your children, not your ex-wife. And to all those mothers who deny access or bad mouth the father, you are denying the children.

Payments siphoned
I HAVEN'T seen my son, David, in 12 1/2 years since my ex-wife took him overseas to live. He was only 2 1/2 and it is unlikely we would recognise each other in the street. Despite an access order being made, Sarah severed all contact soon after leaving Australia. However, I am still required to pay maintenance by the CAS, which is collected from my fortnightly pay packet and sent who knows where. In the case of custodial parents who take their children overseas, maintenance should be tied to access.

Grandparents torn apart
GRANDPARENTS also have the trauma of watching couples tearing one another apart and children not knowing who to believe.

Verbal deal no protection
I MADE a verbal agreement with my ex-husband that he could keep all the business in exchange for signed consent forms for residence. He agreed and not four months later took me to court in an attempt to take my child away. Fortunately, he didn't succeed. I would not think about keeping my child from the father as he worships the ground his father walks on. But a vindictive ex-husband is capable of anything. I still had legal fees to pay in order to defend myself, which in fact my parents helped me to pay.

System fails to trace rort
MY ex-husband is asset rich, cash poor. He drives a recently released 4WD worth $145,000. He has a second car worth $80,000 and brags about the properties he owns. He has holidays in France every year. But because he has not submitted a tax return for five or six years, Centrelink's hands are tied. My child support is calculated on him earning a below average income. I think it's $22,000 a year.

Impoverished by red tape
I HAVE been paying child support for seven years. It was being taken out of my wage and then three years ago I was retrenched. Child support kept taking out the same amount of money even though I wasn't employed. I went on the dole but could not catch up because of the late payment penalties.

Law no match for spouse
I HAVE been in and out of the family law system for over six years now. I have reached the legal aid cap, had it extended, funded myself time and time again and am now preparing to go for yet another trial that will cost my family upwards of $5000. Money we do not have. I am my solicitor's longest-running client, since 1994. I have needed a security escort on many occasions. The court counsellor we saw recently pushed the duress alarm for the first time in 16 years within minutes of meeting this man. We heard him screaming the building down as he was being taken off the premises. Each time his applications are rejected. The system as it stands cannot stop this man from making applications. He has been declared vexatious and still managed to slip through and make application after application. I have been to court at least five times in this past year alone. And now a three-day trial has been set down for final orders to be issued.

Hague treaty saved son
MY son, 8, was abducted last year. My experience has been one of frustration, stress and fear. My ex-wife abducted my son without my consent and knowledge. Prior to her leaving we had no court orders, which made it more difficult, believing that trust and open communication was best. Last year, my former teacher, now an ALP senator, assisted me to apply for the Hague child abduction treaty. This took seven months. I am fortunate to have gone to Turkey to bring him back home. I am also fortunate to say I have joint custody of my son. I could have quite easily applied for full custody and won. Unfortunately for most parents, either one or both are ignorant and selfish, thinking only of themselves and not what the child wants.

Child support fails casuals
I AM a paying parent and find the child support formula extremely outdated and unworkable. More people today are casual workers and the child support formula struggles with that. The formula only takes into account your gross annual income for the year previous -- not what you may be earning now. At the moment I am employed by a labour hire company. The work can be quite sporadic. Sometimes I don't get any work all week. Yet I still have to pay 18 per cent of what I would have earned gross at the same time last year. I have found myself out of work at times and living off my savings, having no income. I contact the Child Support Agency to let them know my situation yet I am still required to pay the minimum of $5 per week. I don't begrudge my kids of $5, but how can I pay anything when my income is nil? Paying that money out of my savings is really "double-dipping'', as I would have already been subject to child support on the earnings that I have saved.

Violence order a cynical ploy
MY wife had taken out a violence apprehension order against me 12 months ago. I am appalled that such orders can be taken out so flippantly. In coming to terms with the order, I have since learned from friends and other legal advisers that this is a well-known strategy acted out by partners. As for my ex-spouse and the mother of our two children, she has since withdrawn the violence apprehension order proceedings. Case closed, no findings. But it is too late to save my reputation.

Children left short-changed
I SEPARATED five years ago with two young children. In that time I have received $2.50 per child per week of child support from my ex (this doesn't even cover their bus fare to school for the week). He works full time, cash in hand, which allows him to claim the dole, so he only has to pay the minimum. Yet he drives a $55,000 luxury car. I am now engaged and no longer receive the sole parent pension as we are classified as a family. My partner has a child from a previous relationship, which he pays full maintenance of $150 a week. We cannot get a reduction in the amount of maintenance he pays to child support as they have told us ``my children are not classified as his dependants and he is not obliged to financially support them''.

Abuse the real story
THE headline should have read "Sixteen women killed a year by angry ex-spouses'' or "Children killed by fathers after separation''. It is appalling that the death of women and children is not given the utmost priority in your media coverage of the custody debate. Every day women and children are living with the reality of domestic violence and child abuse. Where is the information that single mothers and their children, who are one of the most impoverished groups in Australia, often forego their legitimate share of their property settlement because of intimation, harassment, abuse and threats of their children being taken?
---Marie Hume, National Abuse Free Contact Campaign

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