Canberra Times

17 November 2002, Page 3

BACK-BENCH COMMITTEE TO PRESS FOR FAMILY LAW CHANGES

By FRANK CASSIDY
Canberra Times

A team of maverick federal Coalition backbenchers has set up a new committee to press for major changes to the family law.

Led by NSW Liberal Ken Ticehurst. the group, which includes one Cabinet minister and former Senate president Margaret Reid, plans an overhaul of the law to reintroduce fairness and equity for children in the aftermath of family breakdown.

"Unfortunately our family law courts are based on the adversarial system," Mr Ticehurst said. "Men and children really don't get their due rights."

He said the result was many young men were growing up without male role models and many fathers were estranged from their children.

"I'm sure there's some links into juvenile delinquency, drug taking, youth suicide, the whole bit. We've got to be able to do something for these kids."

The group's first meeting last Tuesday attracted more than 20 MPs, ran an hour overtime and had to be moved to a bigger committee room. Families Minister Larry Anthony attended as an observer.

Mr Ticehurst said 70 per cent of separations were trouble-free but "it's the others that cause the grief. Five men a week committed suicide because of child access problems.

Called primarily to discuss reforms to child custody laws to encourage more shared parenting, the meeting also canvassed the need for crisis mediation. pre-breakdown preventive action and the child support scheme.

Shared Parenting Council federal director Geoff Greene said the meeting overwhelmingly recognised that the current process of family breakdown administration had failed.

"The meeting recognised reform was required in some way or other," Mr Greene said. A "minimum requirement" was to enshrine in family law a child's right to a relationship with both parents after divorce.

"It was pretty much unanimous that shared custody orders should be the underlying principle to come from any breakdown situation, as opposed to the current situation of mother preference and father contact."

Men's Rights Agency director Sue Price addressed the meeting, accusing the present law of "not working" and of bias against perfectly good parents, both mothers and fathers.

"If the Australian people knew the full extent of the unfair treatment dished out to loving, caring parents and their children on a daily basis, they would be horrified," Mrs Price said.

"There is no greater disaster facing our society."

A spokeswoman for Mr Anthony said Family Court, custody and child support issues were among those most complained about to MPs.

"These issues are highly emotive," she said. "The minister is always keen to look at increasing fairness and equity in the scheme and is open to listen to all views from relevant organisations, Members of Parliament and others."

There are no problems… only solutions and opportunities. but the last bastion of discrimination is in Family Law, with the target being HETEROSEXUAL, SINGLE FATHERS WHO LOVE THEIR CHILDREN yet have been usurped of as a parent.

To air these grieves and find solutions try some of the following forums.