Not being a parent, I must admit to not really being across Family Law in this country until very recently. But I have been very interested to hear about Labor’s intentions to change the family law reforms put in place in 2006 by the Howard government.

One of the key reforms that the Howard government put in place was in regards to shared parenting. Something that back in my day as the child in a divorced family, were rarely heard of. The mother’s were almost always awarded full custody, and that’s just the way it was.

Not surprisingly, this system, or presumption that the mother was the best parent for the child full time, left many fathers distraught, and in many cases depressed and suicidal.

It was wrong to instantly throw the mother the full time parenting baton, because some weren’t up to it.

Clearly, there was need for reform. But was Howard’s idea of reform, by way of shared parenting really the best overall solution?

Now that there’s talk that the Gillard government, are looking at amending Howard’s reforms, under the banner of making sure that domestic violence is the key concern for where the children are placed, is making a lot of men nervous.

Father’s rights groups, and lobbyists are said to be angered at Labor, as the fear is that “violence” may be used as a backdoor way of killing shared parenting reforms. Many fathers’ fear that “violence” will be used as a revenge tactic.

So with shared custody being a widely recognized best case solution these days, it could be debated that this may be more about what’s best for both parents, but maybe not the child?

Maybe both parents winning, is a luxury we can’t expect to afford when a home unit breaks down? After all, there are no winners in a divorce.

The obvious to me is how to regular monitor, or be in tune to the child’s emotional state, when they’re going from environment to environment?

If back when I was a child I was asked which parent I wanted to live with of course I would have said both. That’s asking a child who’s riddled with guilt that making a choice between mummy and daddy would be betraying one or the other.

I lived with my mother, and several times a year I would go to stay with my dad for a couple of weeks at a time. He lived in Sydney so mum would drop my brother and I off at that airport each time, sometimes flying with us when we were very young.

Every time without fail I would cry to the point of gagging saying goodbye to my mum. Knowing I would miss her, but more importantly, I cried out of guilt that I couldn’t wait to see my dad. “If only my mum knew I thought, what my tears were actually for?”

Then when my dad would see us off at the airport, I would cry again, devastated that I would not see him for so long, but also because I missed my mum so much.

But I now know that shared custody back then for me, would never have worked. Because when there are two homes, there’s often an extra parent at each end known as the stepparent.

In my case, this was not a happy dynamic, and there were emotional scars left that I now know could have been worse if that was my world, week after week.

I also think that when a relationship breaks down, often one or both parties are ready to let the other go, but not always their kids. But does that mean they are really ready to share the responsibilities of a co parenting role? Maybe even they suffer from guilt of passing the option up?

I know from friends, there is often one parent that struggles to put their lives completely on hold for their week ‘on’. They may not recognize neglect, but it’s there.



  1. hi amber shared custody does work very well, when the parents are friends, or in the extreme just concentrate on the child. i have a 9 year old boy who is doing very well with life and it doesnt seem to affect him , other than he misses his dad (me), i have my son six days out of 14, and cherish or time is very hard for the non cusdodian parent when they get a new partner, but this can be over come , if the kids are put first.hope this dribble helps , love ya work , ken , ps , a date out of the question , xx lol

    • I can imagine for shared custody to really be successful, the parents would have to have alot of communication with each other. There’s no way shared custody would have been good for my situation growing up. The extremes between how my parents lived was just way way too different. You name it, what one thought the other did or thought the exact opposite. And they didn’t like each other as people at all. Interestingly enough by the time I was about 35 they decided they really liked each other. So strange but better late than never. And thank
      you for the offer of a date, however I’m not really in the dating headspace right now. I’m kind of moving around the country a bit too much so fitting people in, is a bit tricky right now. But thank you, I’m very flattered to be asked. Thanks for taking the time to write. X

    • I’d say different types if kids respond better to different situations. The onus
      is on making it about the kids and not a convenience for the patents. I’ve seen a few people find it tough cause one patent acts like a proper parent and the other goes about their lived exactly like the week they don’t have the kids… The only difference being alot if babysitting on their ‘i’m’ week which is not cool

  2. After 15 years my daughter has “decided” to live one week with her dad and one week with me. She has the support of her father. I don’t want to let go. She is failing at school. The school doesn’t agree with what my daughter wants to do either. Her father wants a “trial run” to see how things go because he doesn’t want to make it permanent and then she changes her mind! Well go figure…. a 15 year old who may change her mind….

    • That must be hard for you Anna. My brother did the same when he was about that age. I believe his reaSoning was that ge had got bored with mums rules and he had started to resent her and I think he thought she was the boring patent and dad was more fun. I font doubt that ge was craving time with a father figure around… Our step father was not nice or nurturing to either of us, least if all my brother. But he went up to Sydney to stay with dad and his partner and was still behaving badly at school which from memory they couldn’t really accept, so he ended up coming back to us. I guess she had to let him go, he was making our life miserable but if the kids “deciding” to live with the other parent cause they think they’ll have an easier life then maybe that’s not a good reason, and makes it hard for the full time parent who suddenly gets undermined and their patent power taken away. Hope it goes ok for you and your daughter though. Time will tell. X

  3. I have friends in the 50/50 scenario and I have watched a focussed fulltime mum turn into a part time mum who has had to get a full time job to support a house and bills for part time users. She now struggles between her single go anywhere anytime life and her children first life.
    I don’t believe children in the 50/50 scenario have any real “home” with things at the “öther” house or in the suitcase.
    I think the parents have to both be able to put the children first and work together for the benefit of the children. When there is still angst over the break up of the relationship the hurt can transfer into decisions made, ultimately affecting the children.

  4. Hi.
    I have not had experiences with shared custody butI do feel it is very, very important that good communication with all parties is needed.
    We have seen terrible tragedies with domestic breakups in this country and it is very heartbreaking.
    I personally feel the inlaws / family members & friends must NOT take sides or encourage verbal bashing to the other partner if possible.
    I am aware that there are situtations when this may be difficult if there has been evidence of abuse but….a lot of unnecessary bashing & lying does go on fuelling terrible hatred and anger..and as I said before…often leading to tragedy.
    Children need both parents if possible….and if one parent is hiding the child / children away with help from their family / friends it can be heartbreaking to the other parent and financially crippling.

  5. Hi Amber,
    I’ve wondered this same thing myself the past few months my best friend is in this exact situation. The relationship with her ex is excellent & thankfully 12mths ago they changed their 3 on 3 off arrangement for a week at a time each ( the kids were exhausted from living out of suitcase) but even still I’m not sure this is working for the kids or parents. In all honesty I think the answer is do your best to be sure you are ready for the pressures having a family can bring, there will never be guarantees but if we as a society were more selective about who we mated with & when, and became parents through conscious choice & effort there would a lot fewer children in these situations.

  6. Amber, I work in this area regrettably. If I’ve reached one conclusion after doing so for 25 years it is that the Family Law Act is all very well in theory but it ignores the basics of human behaviour. It requires us, no matter what has happened in the marriage or how much we have been deceived or hurt, to suddenly behave in an exemplary manner at all times. Now, we might well say that we should do so for the sake of the children but in reality, it ain’t going to happen. I agree with most of the other bloggers though that good communication is essential. However, in my experience, that is the rare exception rather than the norm. The answer? Well, it beats me!

    PS: I enjoyed your piece in the paper today – 5.5.11. Well said.

  7. Hey Amber, I briefly read part of your blogs on Facebook whilst back in Adelaide and couldn’t wait to read in full. You have other blogs on Loneliness and Cheating in Relationships which I also relate to very much, but this is something that is very close to my heart.
    As you may or may not remember, I am an Adelaide girl. I grew up in Adelaide, one of seven girls, many close friends in Adelaide, had a successful business in event and fashion styling, as well as a teacher at a private school.
    Three years ago, my then partner of eleven years, requested that we move to the Gold Coast with our two children (now 10 and 8), as his father was not well and he wanted our boys to be able to spend some quality time with their grandfather. Reluctantly I agreed and although it was not something I wanted to do, I thought it was something you do when in relationships. Sometimes you make sacrifices.
    So I gave up my job, business, left my family and friends, and moved to the Gold Coast. Only three months after moving, I came home one day to find that he had moved out. To find out only weeks later he had another house and woman.
    Given that I had just left everything in my life behind for him, I wanted to fix the relationship, even though he kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me, it was him. So after almost a year separated and lots of therapy, we moved back in together.
    To cut a long story short, it was fabulous for about two months, but I essentially came home one day to find that he had out of the blue, he had moved everything out again whilst I was at work. Still swearing black and blue it was not me it was him.
    I found it interesting how quickly my love for him turned into hate. This time I said I wanted to move back home to Adelaide. This is when I discovered, after spending thousands on Lawyers, of Howards custody reforms. I was told that because the children are established on the Gold Coast, I cannot relocate them unless the other party agrees. He does not agree. He wants to remain on the Gold Coast and therefore the children have to stay here too. If I take them back to South Australia for more than two weeks without his permission, I am essentially kidnapping them.
    One lawyer insinuated to me that the only way I would win in court, to relocate the children was if their father was violent or a drug user. He is neither and I can safely say that of all things he is a fantastic father. We have 50/50 custody, and the boys are fairly well adjusted to the living arrangements.
    So here I am on the Gold Coast by myself. I have spent over $10k this year alone, flying myself and the boys back to SA, just so I keep my sanity. I don’t get to share my experiences with my children with anyone I care about. And yes, loneliness is soul destroying. The 50/50 custody isn’t just about the children. I think it should also be about the wellbeing of the parents too. This has affected my relationship with my children. Although they get both parents equally and they don’t have to choose and there are no winners here at all, but my boys do have a mother who feels soulless. It is the exact work I have used many times. Custody laws should occasionally take the circumstances on the parent’s relationship into account too, as this situation I am in is not fair, and the law allows it to happen.
    Sorry for the long comment, but I am sure that some people can hear my frustration.
    Take care
    Sam x

    • Hello Sam, your story really breaks my heart. Your world has literally just been turned upside and a whole lot of freedom seemingly taken from it. I love that you’ve shared this as I think it’s a HUGE issue that people must wise up to. I have a friend who also has this dilemma with a Melbourne Sydney situation. It’s VERY hard and motherhood now she is no longer with him is a constant source of stress as she’s also a busy career girl. She had NO idea about the laws in terms of interstate families. She was coaxed down to Melbourne where she never wanted to live because her partner said he wanted to be closer to family etc which would be great for them with the baby. And to an extent it was, but she always maintained to him that she did NOT see herself wanting to live in Melbourne full time. And of course, they had the baby in Melbourne and once they split, now he, who I believe knew plenty about his rights and the law, must now be based there, unless he relinquishes this and allows her to go back to Sydney, where HER family are, and where now they’re apart, she needs to lean on more and more. it’s really tough, and really soul destroying. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m touched that you bothered, and have been so beautifully open. Keep in touch Sam, and lots of love x

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