• McKenzie Friend Australia

Can family law ensure kids have the least psychological effect from mistakes made by parents?

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Today being Father’s Day should be a time children and fathers have fun focusing on one another. I happened to post on Facebook a photo of my daughter and her dad having a wonderful time together and came across a family law article originally published in the Canberra Times Newspaper  written by a female Accredited Family Lawyer. This lawyer started by nailing women over not agreeing to equalling time. Secondly she was reporting women in worst case scenarios “want to eradicate the father from the face of the planet” stemming "from the mother’s inability to separate her own emotions from the emotional needs of her children” resulting in parental alienation. The entire article pointed towards the mother being the villain. You can probably guess there were a lot of angry post from dad’s in support of this totally biased article written by a lawyer. I bet she will have a few new angry male clients sign up for legal services stemming from this article.

Parental alienation is the process and the result of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent. 

I say:

  1. Just because a mother won’t agree to equal time doesn’t mean it is parental alienation by a long shot.

  2. I want to also point out the wise old saying 'a mother's intuition is always right' revolves around knowing her children and their needs which are very separate to her own emotional needs.

This article tried to infer that one thing lead to the other which results in depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem and substance abuse in both children and the dads. Of course, no mention of women yet being anything but the ‘bad guy’. No pun intended.

I weighed in as the only female contestant suggesting parents need to consider the long-term psychological effects of shared care on their children if conflict exists, which clearly from some of the comments, high conflict did exist. Not one male ‘liked’ my comment, one female did, but also not one single person retorted. On reflection I believe separated parents at loggerheads really do not consider the mental health impacts caused from what they are doing in the long term. They are too busy fighting over number of nights which is more about their own personal bruises, egos and trophy showing a win. I do not understand why any parent thinks that trafficking their children between 2 homes for years is acceptable, stable and conducive to the emotional stability of their offspring. Would they be okay spending time at someone else’s home several nights a fortnight for 1-18 years? No. That’s why adult couples end up moving in together.

The Australian Family Law Act 1975 suggests the legislation focuses on the rights of children and the responsibilities of each parent towards their children, rather than on the rights of parents. Furthermore, the Act aims to ensure children can enjoy a meaningful relationship with each of their parents and are protected from all forms of harm.

But how do the courts, our government or even the general public know this actual transpires in the real-world post Court Rulings made by the family court Judges? They don’t. We all hear about the worst cases when a parent (normally the mother) or the children are killed by the ex-partner because of the custody battles which were supposed to protect them from harm.

Have you heard about the rising number of mental health issues of children who are reared outside of Final Parenting Orders which apparently focused on children having meaningful relationships with each parent? I have personally read a number of articles over the past few years noting increasing cases of ADHD, Autism and ODD diagnosed in young children? I think a large majority of these kids might be from broken homes and being shipped between parents with very different households, agendas and conflict.

I also suggest a limited number of general public, not the courts, only hear in secret conversations about a parent struggling to find a clear stable path for their emotionally wrecked children who have an unsupportive co-parent who are solely focused on gaining ‘more nights’ or ‘full custody’, not on the psychological effects of their own behaviour influencing their child’s sense of security, self-esteem, confidence, stress levels and social skills. Time with mum or dad (meaning the second parent) is important. But it does not and should not ever over-rule stability and emotional wellbeing.

How would you react if say your 10-year-old told a mental health professional they had thought about committing suicide a few times because they could not cope with the ongoing conflict between mum and dad? Furthermore, they spoke about killing themselves without any emotional display like it would be so easy. This is scary stuff that parents need to wake up to. Realise…. fighting about shuffling children more and more between homes in conflict is dangerous emotional ground for the very precious souls you brought into this world and to whom I’m sure you whispered to them when they were first born that you would protect them forever.

Children just want to be able to love both parents and feel safe. Choose wisely, as continuing self-absorbed adult quarrels or positions over 'nights' post Final Court Orders can be huge mistakes with terrible long term consequences for every member of the family.

Try to be happy and move on for the sake of your kids and your own mental wellbeing.

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