NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

November 25th, 2011 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The long-anticipated roll-back of children’s rights in Australia has happened.  The Australian Parliament has passed the bill aimed at scuttling the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act that promised children greater access to their fathers.

The Howard government’s modest attempt at making shared parenting the rule in Australia was met with a firestorm of protest from anti-father forces across the country.  Lacking any comprehensive data for their claim, they nevertheless argued that the 2006 reforms endangered children.  That of course was premised on the notion that fathers are uniquely harmful to children.  The fact that, in Australia as in the United States, mothers commit more abuse and neglect of children than do fathers is a concept the anti-dad crowd preferred to ignore.  They shouted to the skies their narrative of paternal violence, irrespective of known science.

And the political powers that be listened.  The bill that was offered and that has now passed is so virulently anti-father as to beggar belief.  More importantly, it’s anti-child, despite the claim that it’s done for their welfare.  It’s touted as protection for children because it places child safety as paramount when a court decides custody.  Read about it here (News.Com.Au./11/22/11).

What could possibly be wrong with that?  Don’t we all want our children to be safe both during marriage and after?  Of course we do, but what the Australian government has done is to place virtually limitless power to remove fathers from children’s lives in the hands of mothers.  Oh, it’s not as if they didn’t already have plenty, but this new law makes mothers’ power all but absolute.

It should come as no surprise that the tool by which children are to be denied any contact with their fathers is the concept of domestic violence.  Here in the U.S. we have sound science showing that, when one state attempted to bring greater equality to custody decisions, a single thing thwarted the effort – claims of domestic violence.  Over 80% of those were made by mothers and separate studies show custody evaluators estimating up to 70% of those to be false.  In Australia, surveys show that 46% of Australians believe that mothers make up false claims of abuse in order to improve their position in a custody case.

Under the new law in Australia, virtually any action by a father that a mother dislikes, or claims to dislike, will be held to constitute domestic violence.  That will set him up for the loss of his kids.  Essentially, all a mother has to do is convince a court that she had been made fearful by her children’s father for him to be swept out of their lives.  Just to make certain that courts don’t discourage the practice, there’s no punishment allowed in the law for false swearing. 

Claims of abuse are, then, a free shot.  Anyone can make them based on anything or nothing.  If it’s proven that they were fabricated, there’s nothing anyone can do.   The certain result will be a family court system inundated by claims of abuse, few of which can be objectively verified.  Any family attorney who fails to use even the most trivial infractions against a parent will not be doing his/her job.

So when courts hear evidence of domestic violence, it can be anything from the most savage assaults to “emotional manipulation” or “financial abuse.”  If the beloved family family dog is terminally ill and in constant pain, Dad, best not take her to the vet to have her euthanized.  If you commit that act of mercy, you can lose your kids under the new law.

Does Dad want sex too much?  He’s an abuser.  Does he want it too little?  Ditto.

Opposition members were clear in their criticisms of the new law, calling it “fundamentally flawed” and saying it “tips the scale back towards hell.”  But they weren’t enough to keep the bill from becoming law.

Let’s be clear.  This is an outrageous and baseless attack on children’s rights to real relationships with their fathers.  The new law will be used to enable mothers to keep fathers out of the lives of their children.  It will do so based on often spurious claims of “abuse.”  It invites the court to believe any and all claims that Dad behaved badly and translate those claims into fatherless children.  That a democratically-elected body should take such a swipe at innocent children today, when we know so much about the value of fathers to children, is beyond disgraceful.

The ironies are too many and too great.  This law will drive fathers out of children’s lives as predictably as the sunrise.  Children suffer without their fathers; that’s been proven too often to mention.  So a law that’s supposedly for the protection of children actually does the opposite.  It will result in the most common form of child abuse – preventing fathers from giving them the love, care, guidance and protection all children need.

Of course there will be those who point to the gender-neutral wording of the law and pretend that its terms can be used or abused by men as easily as by women.  That’s pure nonsense.  The fact is that, like all cultures I’m aware of, Australia’s treats mothers, but not fathers, with kid gloves.  Mothers’ claims of violence or abuse are routinely given more credibility than are men’s.  There, probably more even than in this country, mothers are given control over children’s rights to their fathers. 

The system of family law in Australia is virulently anti-father.  The culture of the family law system demonstrates that every day.  That’s why we see fathers climbing to the top of tall bridges protesting their treatment and 70% of Australians saying they approve of the action.  You don’t see mothers doing that.  No law, however gender-neutral on its face, will overcome the learned anti-father bias of the judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, etc. who populate family courts.

Count on it.  The hemorage of fathers from children’s lives will only increase as this law goes into effect.

Don’t believe me that Australian courts favor mothers?  Read my next piece and then decide.

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