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Fathers Day present from hell

By Warwick Marsh - posted Friday, 2 September 2011


In the lead up to Fathers Day this Sunday I received a call from a grandmother who was in tears because of what her son was going through in the Family Law Court. Her son, she told me, is a devoted dad who loves his child. When his baby was first born he used to push him around the town in a stroller so that mum could get some sleep in between feeds.

Sadly, the mother packed up and left, taking the boy away when he was only one year old. Not only was this father broken hearted, but so was the grandmother. For a period of 18 months he did not see his son because of malicious behaviour on the part of the mother. The whole family was devastated.

Currently this dad sees his son every second weekend and half of the school holidays. But what is saddest is that he struggles to even get that time with his boy. This man is on his fourth set of court orders, but even these are regularly flouted by the mother without impunity. The father and his new partner are at their wits end because this has been going on for 10 years and they no longer know what to do.

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The poor grandmother has been watching the proposed Gillard government's rollback of shared parenting and was wondering if she will ever see her grandson again. She said to me, "It's no wonder fathers commit suicide because they love their children but the courts are against them, legal aid is against them and now the government is against them". Sadly I could do little but agree with her. The Senate Committee reported on the Family Law amendment Bill 2011 on the 17 August. It is set down to come into law a few weeks after Fathers Day.

Another story I heard recently from a good friend was that of his stepson, father of a beautiful daughter, who was locked up in Goulburn Gaol for 8 days. His crime? There wasn't one! The stepson's partner lodged a complaint 2 weeks after a verbal altercation between them which my friend was a witness to. Neither my friend, nor his stepson were consulted, or a statement requested from either of them, but the police were able to put an innocent father in gaol on the word of a drunken woman. After paying $20,000 in legal fees the matter was thrown out of court, but to this day this young man struggles to be allowed to see his daughter even though he is a very committed dad.

You might think these stories are pretty bad, but it is about to get a whole lot worse. Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's Green Labor Government is about to enact changes to the Family Law Act that will demonise dads in the court system and deprive even more children of their biological birthright to a father and a mother. This rollback of shared parenting is being brought in under the guise of 'reducing family violence'.

The New changes will make Family Violence mean anything you want it to mean. It's called Orwellian doublespeak. In other words if any man was to raise his voice at his wife he could be charged with family violence and put in gaol. That of course would mean that all our parliamentarians would be put in Gaol every question time because raising ones voice is standard procedure. As you can see from the above examples Fathers are still being removed from their children's lives under the current 2006 moderate Family Law reforms. Why make it worse?

Secondly the new bill removes the friendly parent provision in family law which required a certain level of mediation between couples for the sake of the children which has helped people to come more positive resolutions for the sake of the children.

Thirdly lying in the family court will no longer have any penalty attached to it. In other words you can make as many false accusations as you like and you will never have costs awarded against you. Perjury should be unacceptable in any court. Truth should never be traded for lies.

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This is the first time in our history that changes have been made to the Family Law Act without bipartisan approval.

What is even more unusual is that the Gillard Government is sitting on only 27% in the latest Newspoll, the lowest vote for a major party in the history of news polls. Furthermore the Prime Minister is losing men by the bucket load with her dissatisfaction rating amongst men, sitting at 59% compared to 48% for women. This means that men are 23% more dissatisfied with Gillard than women. If Ms Gillard wishes to retain government she must win the men's vote, not lose it.

In 2007, the Labor Party made history with its promise to introduce Australia's first ever Men's Health Policy. I should know, I was one of those who helped put it on the table. Men flocked to the Labor Party. Labor won the election and the men's vote helped them do it. But here we are in 2011 and the Gillard Government has declared a war on fatherhood and wants to give a diabolical Fathers Day gift to the men of Australia which will bring even more fatherlessness to Australian children.

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About the Author

Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. They have five children and two grandchildren and have been married for 34 years.

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