The Cruel Hoax Perpetrated On Children

Almost eight years ago the Australian parliament sent the Family Court an explicit directive. Upon divorce children were to have the right to know and be cared for both parents (Albrechtsen 2002).  The Family Court got it wrong was the message by Parliamentary Secretary Peter Duncan as he moved the government’s 1995 amendments.  His words made clear that in the view of the parliament the Family Court had handled the issue inappropriately:

The original intention of the late Senator Murphy was that the Family Law Act would create a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting, but over the years the Family Court has chosen to ignore that. It is hoped that these reforms will now call for much closer attention to this presumption and that the Family Court will give full and proper effect to the intention of Parliament.

The promise that the changes would make the lives of children whole again has been broken.  While the law allows courts to make decisions that would promote joint care   the new legislation stopped a very long way short of presumptive joint residence.  Regretfully, the drafting omission has enabled traditionalist judges to ignore its statutory intent. “Statistics show that the Family Court has ignored parliament with impunity” (Albrechtsen 2002).   

Residence Order Outcomes––1994-1995 to 2000-2001

 

Financial Year

In favour of father

In favour of mother

Joint residence

Split residence

In favour of other applicant

Total

Number

1994-95

2042

9833

680

402

376

13333

1995-96

2139

9824

660

378

424

13425

1996-97

2530

9795

432

799

570

14126

1997-98

2937

10419

483

707

665

15211

1998-99

2867

10047

428

734

577

14653

1999-00

2750

9473

305

558

727

13813

2000-01*

2585

9183

329

559

538

13194

Percentages

1994-95

15.3%

73.7%

5.1%

3.0%

2.8%

100.0%

1995-96

15.9%

73.2%

4.9%

2.8%

3.2%

100.0%

1996-97

17.9%

69.3%

3.1%

5.7%

4.0%

100.0%

1997-98

19.3%

68.5%

3.2%

4.6%

4.4%

100.0%

1998-99

19.6%

68.6%

2.9%

5.0%

3.9%

100.0%

1999-00

19.9%

68.6%

2.2%

4.0%

5.3%

100.0%

2000-01*

19.6%

69.6%

2.5%

4.2%

4.1%

100.0%

Data Notes: 

Orders made in the Family Court of Western Australia are excluded as data is not available. 

Data for Darwin Registry have been available only since 1996-97. 

Figures include both orders made by consent and orders made as a result of contested hearings. 

Family law terminology was changed from custody to residence by the Family Law Reform Act 1995 which was proclaimed on 11 June 1996. 

"Joint residence" is where the order is for each child to spend some time residing with each parent and "split residence" is where the order is for each parent to have one or more of their children residing with them on a full time basis.

* 2000-01 includes data for the Federal Magistrates Service

Sources

Peter Duncan M. P (21 November 1995). Consideration of Senate Message. House of Representatives Hansard. p 3303.

Janet Albrechtsen (21 August 2002). Ideology Blurs Role Of Judiciary. The Australian, p 013

Residence Order Outcomes Data: Outcomes Report: Blackstone. Family Court Of Australia. 

Design by Pegasus Web Design