I know this bloke: he is an old fella, but a single dad. He has been through the mill before; the ‘family court mill’, I mean. Anyway, he now has a 9-year-old little girl who is living with him. She is a beautiful, vibrant, loving, caring little girl. He has no court orders, hasn’t been to the courts, hasn’t applied, just has an agreement with his wife, and the child is free to come and go between them as she wishes.

Now just the other day, while the child was at mum’s, a neighbour’s dog attacked her viciously. She was rushed to hospital by ambulance and went into surgery that night. Two broken bones, two operations, a plate and screws, bolts, whatever inserted, and prayers were offered that she will be ok.

Both mum and dad spent time by the little girl’s side, sleeping next to her in hospital and taking turns during the day to be with her while she heals.

Now I am telling you this story only to show that it is possible, as hard as it can be, to work out differences, if both parties can agree for the sake of the children. Had they been through the family court mill, then this story would be totally different. It is an adversarial system — unfortunately lawyers would have picked over the bones of the relationship, not to mention the pockets of each to find an angle to attack the other.

Ed Dabrowski, a good friend who was originally director of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, was telling me the other day of a bloke in Western Australia — where the laws are even tougher — who sent some flowers to his wife to make up after an argument over the children. He was charged with stalking.

Why can’t the government of this land wake up to the reality that the so-called family court system is useless and destroys more families than it protects? Why can it not be law, when two people separate or divorce, that any children are automatically deemed to have 50/50 with both parents? — obviously unless there is a danger or PROVEN abuse from either side. Not a “he said, she said” scenario. And use this as the starting basis?

I can remember years ago when we were all busy fighting an unfair system and the ‘SPCA’, Shared Parenting Council of Australia were doing the hard yards. Heroes of the movement like Ed Dabrowski, Wayne Butler and Michael Green put their lives on hold to bring about fairer laws.

And they did, but it seems it has gone backwards again, at a cost of, well, you just can’t count it. Lives lost, children scared, everyone involved scared actually. There are no winners in divorce or separation — we all lose, the parents, the kids, the grandparents and so on.

I have heard it a million times, he said she said, he did, she did. That is why when I first started Dads in Distress and a friend’s wife said to me, “There are three sides to every story: his, hers and the truth,” I adopted that as our group motto, adding, “and on the journey, we come to that truth.”

Now back to the story — had they been in the system, he probably wouldn’t have been allowed in the hospital, not his weekend. She would have been accused of neglect. They would have been at each other’s throats. Meanwhile the child is caught in between, loving both mum and dad and not wanting to hurt either. Just hurting herself.

Hey, if you are in the system or you’re hurting, contact either Dads in Distress or whatever is available in your area or online. Help is out there and it’s okay to get it. Always remember the BIGFELLA knows… so don’t be afraid to ask Him for help.

I know this bloke I have been writing about because this bloke is me…

And by the way, my little girl is home and doing fine, thanks to the BIGFELLA.

[Photo by Paweł L. from Pexels]

About the Author: Tony Miller

Tony Miller was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the 2010 Queen's Birthday honors list 'For service to the community through the provision of support services for separated families'.

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