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Fears Family Law Changes Will Deny More Fathers Access To Children

by | Fri, Oct 27 2023

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Changes to the Family Law Act that will overhaul custody arrangements made by the courts have been passed by federal parliament despite claims they will be “unfair” on fathers. They have removed a presumption in favour of both parents getting shared custody and will instead focus on the “best interests of the child.”

The co-founder of Christian organisation The Canberra Declaration, Warwick Marsh, writes in the Daily Declaration that the team at Dads4Kids believes the new laws will in fact harm children and are against their best interests, and therefore unjust. “Simply put, we must make a stand for our nation’s children. We have to stand against the spread of fatherlessness, whether by state decree or willful neglect,” he asserted.

“There are over 870,000 children who will go to sleep tonight in Australia without their biological father in the home. Many of these children cry themselves to sleep, whilst others bury the pain through damaging addictions and/or behaviours. For many, the pain comes out in unexplained and damaging behaviours as they grow to adulthood. Children have a biological birthright of equal access to their mother and their father in the event of separation. The bill passed last week will deprive them further of that biological birthright.”

Indigenous elder Pastor James Dargin told a Senate inquiry on behalf of Dads4Kids: “I believe that the current family law system is biased against fathers and routinely deprives children of their biological birthright to equal access with their mother and fathers. This new legislation will create a new stolen generation of children who, in most cases, are stolen away from their fathers. It would “make the already horrific family law system ten times worse.”

The Daily Telegraph reports mens’ rights advocate Bettina Arndt claims the changes will unfairly impact fathers who already only get about 10% of sole custody arrangements in matters that go to court. She believes they will lead to “unfair” allegations against fathers. “This is the most significant social change in recent history, impacting millions of families across the country. Current estimates suggest there will be more than 300,000 family break-ups involving children in the next decade. It is just astonishing that this is all passing, unchallenged,” she said.

The reforms require independent children’s lawyers to meet directly with children at the centre of family breakdowns. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the changes will allow courts to “directly and quickly” get information from police, child protection and firearms agencies about family violence, child abuse and neglect to protect children from being at risk of harm. He claims it will make the system easier to navigate.”

“These reforms are long overdue and will improve the lives of Australian families. In the nine years the former government was in office there were more than two dozen reviews into the family law system, with hundreds of recommendations that were simply ignored,” Mr. Dreyfus explained.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said the removal of shared custody will amplify existing biases against dads in the family court system, but she told Parliament she supported the legislation’s focus on children’s wishes through dedicated lawyers who will advocate for them.

The Daily Telegraph reports Justice Family Lawyers principal Hayder Shkara as saying there are “valid concerns” over the changes. “Quite often the courts take the view that if there is hostility the child should remain with one parent and the stats show most of the time that’s mum. That’s not because of judges, it’s because of work arrangements, salaries, it’s about social factors,” he expounded.

Warwick Marsh’s wife Alison who’s a co-founder of Dads4Kids, said in a media release: “It should be noted that divorce is never a good option for children. At best, it is only a better option than others. Speaking as a mother it is a disappointing, but a tragic reality, that divorce will always produce a certain amount of fatherlessness and/or motherlessness. The key is to find a way to ensure equality for divorcing couples and justice for children, ideally reducing the number of divorces that take place. After separation, we must create legislation and services which foster co-parenting and healthy relationships between children and their parents.”

“We still desperately need a presumption of equal shared parenting after divorce which is rebuttable based on mitigating circumstances. Nothing else will do. Every child has a fundamental right to equal contact with both the mother and the father, unless there are proven mitigating circumstances,” the media release continued.

Warwick Marsh wrote: “Prime Minister Albanese’s government’s treachery to Australia’s children and fathers is unconscionable. They have betrayed the bipartisan wisdom of wonderful women from the Labor left, like Jenny George MP, who fought for a fair go for men and their children in the lead-up to the historic presumption of Shared Parental Responsibility landmark legislation in 2006.”

He concluded: “More children will cry themselves to sleep than ever before, and more broken-hearted men will take their own lives because of this anti-male partisan Labor legislation. This is a day of mourning for Australia’s children.”