Australian Broadcasting Corporation ( ABC), 29 December 2003
Parents' groups and welfare organisations are welcoming most of the findings from a federal parliamentary inquiry into child custody arrangements.
The joint parliamentary committee is recommending a major shake-up of the nation's child custody system, including significant changes to family law, courts and custody support payments.
In particular, the committee recommends a presumption of equal responsibility for children when a family breaks down, but has shied away from legislating it.
The Australian Council of Social Service says the report's recommendation not to enshrine in legislation the presumed joint custody of children after a marriage breakdown is a positive one.
ACOSS president Andrew MacCallum says personal history must be taken into account when considering shared parental responsibility.
"Rebuttable presumption of joint custody will not go through and I think that leaves it with the courts and I think that's where it should," Mr McCallum said.
"I think every case is unique and think there needs to be some discretion given to the family courts to make those decisions in the best interests of the child."
Men's groups are also welcoming the shared custody recommendations.
Ian Hickman, from the Tasmanian Men's Health and Wellbeing Association, says it puts parents on an equal footing before they negotiate their own custody deals.
"I would expect that to happen on most occasions that they reach their own arrangement," Mr Hickman said.
"But the 50-50 is a good starting point because it doesn't mean that one person is being empowered more right from the beginning to dictate terms to the other one."
However, there is less support for proposed changes to child custody payments.
ACOSS's Mr MacCallum says the recommendation to double minimum child support payments to $10 it is unfair to parents on low incomes.
ABC Radio Australia News, 30 December 2003
Australia's Minister for Children, Larry Anthony, says the government will seriously consider all the recommendations in the parliamentary report recommending a Families Tribunal to deal with child custody issues in a marriage break-up.
Mr Anthony says the government has already acknowledged that the current system needs to be improved.
But the Minister adds establishing a Families Tribunal will take time.
They have proposed quite a radical proposition here. This will be an area that the Attorney General will look at. But I think we've got to start from the premise, if there can be equal parenting responsibility as a starting point that both parents have a role and a right in raising children, that's got to be a good start.
Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs
Read the committee's full report and press releases on Australia's family