Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK

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Enforcement of contact orders

Australian proposal to scrap existing court system and replace it with a simpler way of dealing with breaches of orders immediately

from: The Age (Melbourne, Australia) Monday, April 20, 1998

"Courts fail fathers" in custody breaches

Many divorced men are being denied access to their children by their former wives under a legal system failing to protect parental rights, according to a inquiry by the Federal Government's advisory body on family law.

The Family Law Council found that some men have been forced to give up seeing their children because their former wives have repeatedly disobeyed Family Court orders on contact arrangements.

Contact orders were often breached on Friday afternoons or weekends. But the inquiry found the legal system was unable to deal quickly with breaches whenever they occurred.
The law requires non-custodial parents to apply for a court hearing each time their former spouse breaches an order.

Parents were spending thousands of dollars on legal fees to get their contact order enforced by the Family Court. About 71 per cent of applications were dealt with within three months, but a quarter took longer.

The council's interim report on its inquiry said the system had created a power imbalance between the residence parent who has custody of children, usually the mother, and the contact parent, usually the father.

"Some contact parents, because of the cost factor or simply to avoid the conflict involved, are either rarely seeing their children or are losing contact with them altogether," the report said. "Some who are paying child support but are unable to see their children feel that the system is unjust and has let them down."

The report said the Federal Government should consider scrapping the present system and replacing it with a simpler way of dealing immediately with alleged breaches when they happened.

Costly, time-consuming or delayed court hearings were not the best way to deal with such disputes. "The cost and relevance of a court hearing in cases which often involve petty personal bickering between parents might be questioned," the report said.

Thanks to Lindsay Jackel for forwarding this

Last updated - 21 April 1998
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