Letter to the Prime Minister
from The Lone Fathers Association of Australia
Part Two

The best interests of the child

With a legal presumption of equal shared physical custody, a clear message would be sent by the Australian community to the divorce industry that a child is a human being with an inalienable right to equal parenting (including parenting time) by both its parents and a right to not have a loving parent arbitrarily removed from its life. The divorce industry would be instructed by the legislature to respect this most fundamental of human rights.

The mantra of the “best interests of the child”, as currently interpreted by the divorce industry, must in future give way to a more objective, honest, balanced, and perceptive understanding of the real interests of children. There must be recognition that every family is a unit and that the interests of all the members of a family are inextricably intertwined.

If one parent should be separated from his or her family on an order from the Family Court, on a typically narrow, short-sighted, and false interpretation of the “best interests of the child”, and the parent should subsequently kill themselves in despair, that child will never know its parent or have the support of that parent.

At present these events happen very frequently, as often as two or three times a day, in fact. That is the equivalent of a Bali bombing every few weeks. And it is happening year after year. It is hardly possible to imagine anything less in the interests of the child, or the community.

Parliament must take a large part of the blame for these suicides and their aftermaths, because Parliament is ultimately responsible for the legislation and the judicial and administrative systems that encourage these tragedies, and Parliament has not acted to deal with the problem.

Any normal person would understand instinctively that the best interests of a child cannot be achieved without considering seriously at the same time the effects of any decision or action on the situations and perceptions of both the parents, as key members of the family.

What each parent experiences and feels will sooner or later have a powerful impact on the child, for better or worse. To omit this consideration in the making of court decisions is foolhardy in the extreme. Yet that is the bizarre current practice of the Family Court.

A Families Tribunal

To establish a Families Tribunal of the type recommended by the Committee would be a backward step, as the Tribunal would become just an additional tier in the judicial system, and would soon come to be dominated by the existing Family Court.

Australia already has a Federal Magistrate’s Court that does not work properly for the very reason that it has no real teeth and is overshadowed by the Family Court.

A Tribunal would just “recycle” the same individuals, namely the lawyers, psychologists, social workers, and departmental officials who are running the system at present. These people would not improve the system, as they have made it clear that they do not support a rebuttable presumption of shared care — a presumption that you evidently had in mind when you asked the Committee to investigate the issue.

Child Support Scheme

In relation to child support, there are some recommendations in the Report which need to be considered.

However, the recommendation on the “cap” misses the point about the major structural deficiencies in the scheme, which cause huge work disincentives in some income areas.

The recommendations on the “cap” and overtime and second jobs are not opposed by us as such. But they utilise faulty analysis and are for that reason very unsatisfactory when compared with better alternatives already identified to deal with those specific problems in the child support formula. See the detailed suggestions on those matters in the LFAA’s submission to the Inquiry. Why not select the best way to reform the Scheme, rather than a method that is going to create a whole raft of new problems?

There are also problems with the proposal for a contact allowance.

The recommendations to seize payers’ driver’s licences and extend the “income base” to include lump sum payments and superannuation should not even be considered until there is a clear and definite move towards an after-tax basis for the formula — if indeed then.

Seizing the licences of people who have to drive to work so that they can earn an income would not be a smart move, and has all the hallmarks of the worst features of failed US child support schemes. Also, what is “sauce for the gander” must be “sauce for the goose”. That would mean that the licences of parents who refused access would also have to be seized.

There are numerous other points in relation to the Committee’s recommendations that are listed in Attachment A to this letter.

Also attached is a copy of the LFAA’s submission to the Inquiry for your ease of reference.

Personal intervention

When you asked the Committee to examine the issue of shared physical custody, millions of Australian citizens thought that at last we had a Prime Minister who cares about the way many of our children are growing up without a father in their lives, and who recognises that much of this problem has been caused by the institutions in place in Australia.

This was therefore potentially a major vote winner for the government, as the opposition had signally failed to act in this area over many years.

Implications of Committee’s recommendations on shared parenting

If the Committee’s recommendations opposed above are implemented, Australia can look forward to another decade and more of devastated children and a further increase in the number of suicides by fathers. This will be very bad for the community, and will reflect seriously on governments.

Acceptance of the recommendations on shared parenting would be a big vote loser. The electoral backlash would come from the 70-90% of the population in recent public opinion polls who said they wanted to see a presumption of joint physical custody. It would come from all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other relatives and friends of men currently prevented by the divorce industry from exercising their basic human right to raise their own children.

Requested meeting

We would appreciate a meeting with you to explain our concerns in more detail.

Yours sincerely,
B C Williams BEM JP – President

J B Carter – Policy Adviser
11 January 2004

[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]

About the Author: Barry Williams

For more than 30 years Barry Williams has been a committed advocate for Lone Fathers and their families. As the sole parent to four children, Barry became very aware of the lack of support and understanding within the community for men. As a result, Barry established the ACT branch of The Lone Fathers Association in 1972 and has since helped thousands of men who require emotional, moral and practical support. He spends many hours counselling distressed men and women and has saved many lives through his caring and competent advice. In 1999, Barry set up the first men's shelter in Canberra, which is now a model being replicated in other parts of Australia. Barry's passion for helping others is the cornerstone for his achievements.

One Comment

  1. Catherine Donald February 29, 2024 at 10:51 am - Reply

    I will always remember your kindness and treating me like part of your family for 47 years. You will be missed so much. RIP Barry Aka Hank Williams
    Cath Donald xx

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