A Reflection

This campaign has been a challenge at best.

It’s only through all my research that I’ve realised how complex this issue is and how many holes there are in the judicial system. Honestly, I don’t know how to fix it. There are so many areas and facets that need to be examined; I only hope there are people more dedicated and informed than me that can make those judgements and who can actually enact change.

The people in places in power need to stop pussy-footing around and the people involved need to stop squabbling.That’s the ideal situation. Of course, the latter choice is largely impossible to solve – unresolvable conflict is why they end up in the courts in the first place. The former suggestion is not that much more possible, unfortunately. With a thousand other issues to be fixed and the Family Court only on Pauline Hanson’s agenda, I have a feeling the Australian Government won’t be doing anything about it soon.

What I’ve learnt is that this goes beyond a matter of gender. This is more than male versus female. This is the sad outcome of a court system that doesn’t reflect the times we live in. Women have progressed so far over the last few decades alone; we can finally be a mother and a businesswoman and so much else, but we can’t leave our male counterparts behind. Assuming men are less able to care for children is not much different than assuming women are less able to have a career. It’s just not right and we are better than this.


This concludes Common Ground’s seven-week campaign. Thank you for all those who have viewed, commented, and contributed to this discussion. May change be just around the corner. 

 

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A word on my cover photo

The beautiful cover photo I have chosen is cropped from an image I found on flickr, by photographer theilr. The original is above. He has taken some fascinating macro shots; I encourage you to have a look at some of his other work.

When I created this blog, I wanted an image that summed up its purpose without being explicit – there would be no crying child, no forlorn father. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for until I found this image, so aptly named “Linked“. That essentially encompasses one of the core ideas I wished to convey.

The photo is a close-up of a chainlink fence. Two separate components come in, meet, and part ways again, but the aftermath of their connection is still very much a joint creation. The outcome of their connection is something that cannot exist by itself. If one of the components is absent, the other may hold its place, but the strength of the fence is compromised.

I hope it’s apparent by now that the two components are the mother and father; the joint creation their child. Two is better than one, and whilst the fence can hold its form without the support of a chain, the greatest strength comes with the most support.

Perhaps this analogy is too poetic, or too far-fetched. Perhaps it oversimplifies a complex, multi-faceted issue. To me, it’s the best I have encountered.

One group worth getting behind

In my previous post, I lamented about the lack of organisations – even the lack of websites – that broadcast fact without bias. Unfortunately, it seems the majority of hubs on the internet revolve around man versus woman, mother versus father. As I’ve said, this kind of dialogue will get us nowhere.

The Family Law Reform Coalition (FLRC) is – as far as I have gathered – one of the most balanced, forthright voices for this cause. They are a collection of impassioned people looking for a change in the Family Court, peacefully protesting against the lengthy, costly court battles that leave many family members by the wayside. They are hot on the heels of the government and the judicial system, vying for more Family Court judges, gender equality, and a greater support network for the families going through divorce.

I can imagine it would be difficult to remain neutral in such an emotionally straining situation. But it pays to be levelheaded. This is seemingly ironic, seeing as divorces tend to end up in court when partners can’t remain calm. At least, invest your time in support groups that will be beneficial, not detrimental. I won’t pretend to have the answers or a solution to this problem, but I will suggest giving FLRC a good hard look if you haven’t already.

The Problem with Men’s Rights Groups

Throughout my research, I’ve come to realise there’s not much in the way of information regarding bias in Family Courts. News articles are few and far between, and support/advocacy groups are even rarer. We all know the problem is out there, though: we’ve heard the stories, we might know people who have fought for – and lost – their children and some of us may have experienced it first hand.

I have absolutely no doubt that it is an extremely emotional and exhausting ordeal for those involved – especially for the fathers who are downgraded to visitors. Those involved know that gaining shared custody is an uphill battle, despite the law reforms from 2006 and 2012. Various forms of sites and bodies exist to respond to this issue. Information hubs/advocacy groups are all support networks that are essential during divorce and custody battles. They provide extremely beneficial services to those in need – resources on how to get the best possible outcome and information on what to expect. The give the much-needed evidence that those suffering are not alone.

What isn’t helpful, however, are those support groups and information hubs that resort to biased and/or inflammatory comments. The people who host these communities have a moral obligation to moderate the conversation and condemn those who are out of line. Many sites I have visited have not upheld this responsibility. While I do not wish to name and shame, a simple Google search will give examples of what I am talking about. These groups talk about men’s rights and father’s rights; the conversation should instead focus on the child’s rights.

Support sites are not the place to highlight the faults of women, or to give sweeping comments such as “she’s a bitch/crazy/psycho”. Whilst many cases do include women (and men) who vindictively use the Family Court to further their personal agenda, these sweeping statements do little to fix the situation. In fact, it can be more of a hindrance to justice than anything else.

Shared parenting works best under particular circumstances, especially when both parents are cooperative and are able to properly handle the emotions commonplace in divorce (see AIFS’s Prof Moloney’s report here and here). Defamatory comments on the Internet can very well be used in court to prove that one parent will cause conflict and disruption should parenting be shared.

Outside of court, misogynistic comments alienate the women – such as myself – who wish to support those felt by the injustice. The problem extends beyond the gender lines and into the judgments made by the court; it should not be about man versus woman, father versus mother. Pointing the finger will get us nowhere.

About

Welcome to Common Ground and thank you for visiting! CG is a hub advocating for shared parenting after divorce. Children deserve to have both parents involved in their life wherever practical. Both mothers and fathers deserve to be involved in raising their offspring.

My name is Olivia; I am in my penultimate semester of university and I believe in equality in all its forms.

I know there are many significant problems in the world. Some are larger than others, and this particular issue may seem small to some. Others will completely deny its existence. But to many people, their child is the most precious thing, the most important thing in their lives. This site is for them.

In Australia, more than 70% of children spend the majority of time with their mother as a result of divorce. Only 7% are in the sole custody of fathers and the remaining 20% share their time equally. Over the next six weeks, I will investigate why this imbalance should be rectified.

This page will serve as a source of information and insight into this social issue. I will present unbiased material from reliable and cited sources. For such a contentious issue, I aim to create an informative, neutral space where those involved can cut through the clutter and learn about a very real problem.

I can attribute this idea to my wonderful partner Xavier, whose social conscience outshines mine. We know people – parents and children alike – who have suffered at the hands of biased judgements from family courts. And so I bring it to light.