Aussie Mother Receives A Harsh Lesson In Child Custody

Usually, when child custody lawyers in Melbourne are brought in, and children are separated from one of their parents, it’s usually caused by abuse and/or neglect, which leads to them being removed for their own safety and wellbeing.

For one notable case, however, one that made headlines for child custody lawyers in Melbourne and across Australia, the scenario was very different. Two children were removed from their mum’s care, not because of abuse or neglect; the mother could not love her kids more, and, that, according to the Full Court of the Family Court, was the issue.

The Court noted that the mum cared for the children properly, but the issue was that she deliberately alienated them from their father, and, as far as they’re concerned, that was damaging the tykes’ psychological development. Judge Grant Riethmuller of the Family Court says that it was a sensitive case, as forcing the kids to live with their dad, who they barely knew, would be devastating, but the scenario set up by the mum would effectively remove the dad from the kids’ lives.

The Family Court deliberated on the issue, and made a decision; under the “shared care” provisions established in the Family Law Act, brought in by the Howard administration back in 2006, the Family Court decided to have the kids live with their dad via court order.

Stephen Page, a family law expert, says that this case was a sign of how child custody law has evolved, with dads now getting equal treatment. Historically, the dad would usually get one weekend a fortnight and half of the school holidays to spend with the kids, but now, federal law demands that both parents cooperate for the well-being of the children.

Family law firm Harris Friedman’s Director, Les Stubbs, says that it’s not uncommon to hear of parents calling the kids their own, without regard for the other parent. He says that in these cases, the court will make the hard call and move the kids, saying that the point is not punishing the mother, it’s about ensuring the kids’ right to know both of their parents growing up are met. He does, however, admit, that it might seem harsh to people not familiar with legislation.

The Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act in 2006, considered the most radical alteration to Aussie family law since the original was written up in 1975, is the basis for the decision by the Family Court. Family experts were initially sceptical of the law, but many are now saying that they’ve led to separate parents eventually working out the issues in ways that separated dads in the past would be envious of.