Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Australia Frank Quinlan has called on the new Attorney-General to revisit recent changes to family law which put many children of separated parents at risk of avoidable psychological distress.
Mr Quinlan, commenting as a paper was released in the Journal of Family Studies on Tuesday said children of separated couples should be protected by care arrangements, but that not all children benefit from shared parenting arrangements.
Mr Quinlan said the 50-50 arrangements put in place in 2006, designed to reinforce cooperative parenting, do not necessarily protect the interests of children, particularly where children are exposed to unresolved conflict between the separated parents.
"Marriage and relationship breakdown is a very emotional time for families and it's often the children who wear the consequences of ongoing conflict," Mr Quinlan said.
"Research has shown that shared care of children is more likely to be established in the interests of parents rather than children and that it's often the children who carry the burden of trying to make the arrangements fair.
"The research adds further weight to the need for the new Attorney-General to look at the current arrangements and ensure children, who are relatively disempowered in family breakdown, do not endure further avoidable distress," he said.
Mr Quinlan said the interests of children must be the starting point of all care arrangements post separation on a case by case basis.
"Families need strong support to mediate solutions and negotiate suitable arrangements which focus clearly on the needs of the children," he said.
Catholic Social Services Australia provides services to over a million Australians each year through its 64 member agencies in remote, regional and metropolitan Australia.
SOURCEShared Care Should Be About Children's Needs - Not Parents' Right (CSS Australia 04/03/08)