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.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? DOES SHARED CUSTODY WORK? HAVE YOUR SAY…..