If you own a television or computer, you’ve probably experienced the thrill of a bloke in a t-shirt with a slogan that doesn’t make sense aggressively venting on social media or via a current affairs program about the “gender bias” in the Family Court.
You might even have been asked to “share if you agree” so we can “force our corrupt politicians to take action”. Truly captivating stuff, as long as you don’t mind the odd spelling mistake, grammatical error, or offensive misuse of all caps!
There is an unfortunate perception amongst some that family law in Australia is skewed in favour of women. While some may argue for the merits of such a “skew” in any event, that is not for me to comment on. What is certain however, is that the “skew” is a myth.
I have the immense privilege of acting for a great many fathers, most of whom are exceptional men. Some of my most rewarding professional experiences have come in assisting fathers to ensure that their children’s wellbeing is maximised in the midst of often difficult circumstances between parents. If there was a secret to doing so successfully, I would certainly not keep it. There unfortunately is no one secret. That said, there are absolutely common traits. The men who navigate the world of family law with their dignity intact tend to understand that:
- The Family Court is not the back nine at Augusta. Your long game is by far the most important thing to get right.
- All things going to plan, life is long and your kids’ lives are even longer. It is not worth sabotaging a lifetime of potentially happy and fulfilling relationships for the sake of a bitter year or two in your kids’ developmental years.
- In relation to parenting matters, family law in Australia is focussed primarily on the kids’ best interests. Sometimes, your kids’ interests may not be perfectly aligned with what you may want for yourself, particularly in the short term.
If you are in the middle of what may be a highconflict dispute with your children’s mother or another family member, it can be hard to remember that the kids’ interests will rarely be protected by causing undue detriment to a person who is central to their universe – such as their mum (even if the two of you would prefer to never be in the same postcode).
- Parenting sometimes isn’t “fair”.
Kids are not assets. We’re not here to divide them up, and establishing arrangements for them should not be treated like a competition. We may be helping to allocate responsibility for caring for them at particular times, but that allocation is not based on what seems “fair”.
Even in intact relationships, it is unusual for both parents to spend the same amount of time with the kids all the time. Life circumstances change and kids grow and develop. At various stages, sometimes they will spend lots of time with mum. At other times, they may spend more time with dad. While we can’t always expect to simply replicate that type of flexibility when a relationship breaks down, it remains a useful example. Sometimes kids need to spend a bit more time with mum. Other times they don’t. Even though it can sound a bit like common sense, sometimes that common sense gets lost in the middle of a family law dispute.
If you’ve found yourself in a situation similar to something I’ve described above, don’t let the misconceptions about gender bias scare you. Dads are integral to the functioning of family law in Australia, as are mums.