Law change liable to upset fathers
The Age (Melbourne), By Katherine Murphy, 24 March 2011
The Gillard government will provoke the ire of fathers' groups today
with landmark changes to family law designed to protect children in
cases of domestic violence.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland will press ahead with legislation
winding back some of the shared parenting changes ushered in by the
The changes will make it easier for parents to produce evidence of
violence in cases where parents are in dispute over contact
arrangements. The legislation will include new legal definitions of
abuse and family violence.
The government believes the Howard changes made it difficult for women
to make allegations of domestic violence in custody disputes because
they could end up with costs awarded against them, or be branded an
unfriendly parent, increasing the chances of shared care being ordered.
Family law experts, and women's groups, have urged the government to
make child safety a more compelling legal principle than the concept of
equal parenting rights.
The bill went out for a consultation period and the government has
changed the original proposal to ensure courts will still take note of
the level of parental participation in a child's life and their
preparedness to provide financial support.
The architect of the changes, former family court judge Richard
Chisholm, said the government had chosen not to adopt all of his
recommendations, but the amendments were positive. ''It is a sensible
and moderate measure,'' Professor Chisholm said.
Mr McClelland, who has been lobbied extensively by shared-care
proponents, said the government remained supportive of mothers and
fathers sharing care of their children after marriages failed ''but only
where this is safe for the child''.
The Coalition has signalled it will block the measure, forcing the
government to court the crossbench for support.