Listing of news articles
26/01/20 - Bettina Arndt receives an AM in today's Australia Day Honours List
"Activist and author Bettina Arndt, who has dedicated the latter part of her career to what she sees as the unfair treatment of men in today's society, has received an Australia Day honour for her work.
In a decision certain to outrage feminists and other community members, Ms Arndt was admitted as a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for her "significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men"."
For more see the full article in today's edition of The Sydney Morning Herald:
25/01/20 - Parents, Attorney-General Christian Porter and his wife Jennifer announce their separation.
"Attorney-General Christian Porter and his wife Jennifer have announced their separation in an email to newsrooms.
“After 13 years together it is with sadness that we have decided to separate. This decision follows careful consideration about the best way forward for each other and our family,” the couple wrote in the statement.
“It is a mutual decision and no third parties are involved. We have been working hard to see what could be possible because first and foremost we are loving parents to two wonderful little children.”
For more see the full article in today's edition of The Australian:
16/01/20 - 'I don't want to be one of those absent fathers': Trapped between family & immigration law systems
"In a sense, Rudi Novak's experiences over the past decade are a common enough tale of people falling in and out of love, of relationships starting and ending, and of children being caught between. Although his story is messier and more complicated than most, the problem at its core is a simple one: Rudi's daughter Maja is Australian, but he is not. And he faces the prospect of having to depart Australia, possibly forever, leaving her behind."
For full article in the Canberra Times:
23/12/19 - Alone at Christmas?
For some dads, this is the toughest time of year. But it needn't be. Our helpline (1300 853437) is open and running from 09.00 to midday (Sydney/Melbourne timezone) on Christmas day. We've also got a range of volunteers on our Facebook page here if you want to message someone.
Here's a few random thoughts sent to us by others that you might find interesting...
- My first Christmas as a single dad
- When It’s the Other Parent’s Turn to Have the Kids on Christmas
- 3 Holiday tips for single dads
- Salvo's have events everywhere in Australia - make the day by giving back or just joining in
- Search 'events near me' on Google - select the free ones if money is an issue
- 51 things to do on Christmas Day (Some are nutty but some... are real gems)
Maybe there's nothing here that feels right for you but here's another idea that we're sure will suit most. Plan to attend a local Dads in Distress group ASAP, and build a community of mates around you in the same boat. You'll never be alone again. And if there's no group, then help us get one started, that's exactly how each other group got going so don't wait for someone else to do it for you. Make the world a better place! Take the step.
Got any other insights? Let us know and we'll post it here for others to find.
23/12/19 - Statistics of family law case outcomes
With another family law inquiry in motion, we are increasingly asked by individuals, journalists and even official bodies where they can find the official statistics around family law & court outcomes.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies in their 'Parenting arrangements after separation' research is one of the best places to start. With an update in October 2019, this is about as current as it gets.
Whilst it does not measure all of the factors many might wish to see, it serves as one of our best all round perspectives on key data that is available and is current.
A key challenge is the determination of how well the systems, processes, bodies and agencies, that we have, actually deliver against the genuine best interest of the child, versus working towards the perceived best interest of the child. It's no simple or short term deliverable but it would go a long way towards addressing many questions we get asked by parents and experts alike.
Tony Miller OAM, Founder of Dads in Distress, Fathers Day 1999
20/12/19 - A Christmas message from our founder Tony Miller OAM
To all our volunteers a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
I would like to tell you how much you are appreciated by relaying a story that happened to me way back in those early years of DID's.
I was renting a house down at the jetty [Coffs Harbour] and getting my kids every second weekend, well almost. It was Christmas and I decided to put on a BBQ for all the dads in distress at the time in Coffs, on my front lawn.
All the guys donated something; either sausages, salads, buns, or what they could afford.
Alan who now answers the phone helpline had a band and they set up and played on the lawn, people came from everywhere. It was wonderful.
It was a tough year, I was pretty well broke, depressed, lonely, feeling like most dad's in distress but I was looking forward to the day with the guys and with my kids.
One of the guys Ty, gave me a plastic Christmas tree which was pretty battered but at least it was a tree. I set it up in the corner of a room and wondered how the hell I was going to buy the kids presents.
Anyway to cut a long story short those men, those bloody heroes, those dad's in distress, one by one, brought a wrapped present and placed it under the tree. They were all tagged with my kids names on them, love from dad.
My kids didn't know it that year, but they had more dad's then they could of imagined. I had more mates then I could of imagined. For a year that was pretty low it was a high that I will never forget.
When the day was over I sat by that bloody tree, crying and yet so proud of those heroes, those dad's in distress, many of which didn't get to see their own kids that year. Yet they made sure mine got presents they thought were from me.
I kept that old tree for years, dragging it out every Christmas, not able to discard it until little by little it fell to pieces and was laid to rest.
Every Christmas I remember this story and every Christmas I shed a tear in memory of those dad's.
And so my friend's , thank you for doing what you do, whether your a volunteer, management, or on the board, know you are valued in more ways then one and every little kindness you do touches more people then you can imagine.
Thank you all and have a memorable happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year
Tony Miller OAM
19/12/19 - The importance of 'Lived Experience'
You may have seen that we're collating and publishing the lived experience stories of separated dads and that of their immediate family members; grandmothers, sisters, daughters.
Giving separated dads (and extended family) a voice is important.
Separated dads are a high risk group for suicide. We’ve been working to keep dads alive and in their kids’ lives for 20 years and giving dads a voice is an important part of our suicide prevention work.
There is now widespread recognition that work to prevent suicide needs to be informed by people’s lived experience. While the range of lived experience voices are now included in work to prevent suicide, the voice of separated dads is rarely heard. We aim to address this imbalance.
In September the Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched a Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into Family Law and Child Support and acknowledge that “family and relationship breakdown is one of the prime causes of suicide”. The PM said: “What I’m asking members of parliament, senators, house members to do is just to go around the country and open their ears and listen to the stories of Australians who are dealing with this system.”
But it’s not just the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry that can benefit from hearing the Lived Experience voice of separated dads. We’re also working with the suicide prevention sector more widely to find ways to ensure separated dads stories are heard in a way that can help us keep more dads alive and in their kids.
Collecting and publishing some of these stories as part of the our 20th anniversary Dads Alive campaign is just one small step in our ongoing work to develop the important role that separated dads with Lived Experience can play in suicide prevention work.
Looking forward, we’ll continue to work with SPA (Suicide Prevention Australia), the peak body for the suicide prevention sector in Australia and liaise with the PM’s National Suicide Prevention Advisor, Christine Morgan, to keep improving our ability to bring the Lived Experience voice of separated dads to the national conversation about suicide in meaningful and effective ways.
We're still collecting lived experience stories.
15/12/19 - Surviving Christmas Podcast from the Resilience Centre
Free to listen to podcast that we think might be just the insight that some separated parents need over this most difficult of times. "Christmas can be a challenging time in all families, separated or not and nearly always requires a degree of flexibility. Clinical social worker Davide Di Pietro discusses with Leigh Hatcher the tricky subject of accommodating Christmas traditions, gifts, celebrating without children and many more aspects of how to survive Christmas in a separated family." Click here to visit the podcast online.
14/12/19 - Chief Justice steps in and personally resolves multiple long running family cases
"Waiting times have been slashed in the Family Court in the past year, but dozens of families are still waiting more than six months for judges to resolve their cases.
A spokeswoman for the court said since Chief Justice Alstergren's appointment to the court a year ago, he had led efforts to reduce backlogs and delays, including in the delivery of judgments.
Faced with yet another inquiry, to be co-chaired by trenchant Family Court critic Pauline Hanson, and the federal government's plans to merge the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court, Chief Justice Alstergren described his first year in the job as "challenging".
He has taken unorthodox steps to reduce the backlog in cases, including personally holding "callover" lists around the country, in which he brings in cases that are more than two years old to resolve them.
During recent sittings in Brisbane, Chief Justice Alstergren heard about 50 cases a day over a week.
He has also ordered court staff to compile a "heat map" to determine which judges and regions are struggling with the biggest backlogs, provided judges with more education and mentoring, and worked to more quickly replace judges who have retired.
11/12/19 - Banned single expert witness claims regulatory body bullies profession and too readily accepts complaints.
"A Family Court psychologist found guilty of professional misconduct has previously accused the health practitioner regulator of bullying psychologists.
Dr Menaglio accepted a professional misconduct finding almost two months ago in the West Australian State Administrative Tribunal for attributing psychopathic traits to a father without justification. He was banned from acting as a single expert witness in the Family Court for at least 12 months and fined $20,000 after AHPRA took disciplinary action against him.
The submission, dated February 2017, said the regulatory oversight system for psychologists was “punitive, draconian and provides the vehicle for the boards and AHPRA to shame and humiliate health practitioners”. It said it was open to abuse because of a readiness to accept complaints from anyone who had an agenda to abuse, bully or harass a health practitioner and should be overhauled.
In an earlier submission to a different inquiry in 2011, he also stated that the ability of expert witnesses to provide evidence to the Family Court was hampered by the capacity of parties to complain to the Psychology Board of Australia. He urged a parliamentary committee to protect expert witnesses from complaints.
Dr Menaglio was appointed by the Family Court of WA in March 2012 to prepare a report on what care arrangements were in the interests of a then nine-year-old boy. He was the “single expert witness”, meaning his would be the only expert evidence.
In his report, he attributed psychopathic traits to the boy’s father without clinical evidence, and conveyed that the boy needed protection from him.
Dr Menaglio accepted in the State Administrative Tribunal in October that he did this “in circumstances where he had insufficient data or clinical evidence to justify that attribution”.
The report had a significant impact. The father’s unsupervised contact with his son ceased from that point.
28/11/19 - Dad back from the brink and helping in suicide prevention
It was 5.45 am on December 4 in 2014, when Dan Price became headline news as the desperate 29-year-old on the edge of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
That Thursday morning as the traffic stood still and the bridge was closed, a police officer reached through the safety fence to grip Price, who was intoxicated and prepared to jump, and prevent him from falling.
Since that day, as Price has worked towards mental health recovery, he has spoken out about the loneliness many men experience as they fight to hide their feelings and go it alone.
From original article "Dan came back from the brink, now he fights for male suicide prevention" - Sydney Morning Herald
26/11/19 - "Movember" Campaign to have year long focus
From original article "It’s about more than just the moustache" on PRO BONO AUSTRALIA
"One of the most appealing draws for joining the foundation was the need to take Movember from a one-off annual campaign-led organisation to a model where we engage our supporters and the public throughout the year. It’s actually a really huge shift forward, but one that we’re very excited about. We know we need to do that to accelerate progress and to reach our overall organisation goal" said Rachel Carr (Movember Foundation)
24/11/19 - High Court ruling determines sperm donor has parental rights
From original article on Coleman Grieg lawyers website
"On 19 June 2019, the High Court of Australia made a landmark decision regarding the parental rights of a sperm donor when it delivered judgment in the matter of Masson v Parsons. The biological father and sperm donor, Mr Masson, sought orders from the Family Court of Australia to restrain the biological mother and her same-sex partner from relocating with their child to New Zealand."
"The Court’s findings show that, while the parental rights of a sperm donor are highly debatable and contestable, there are provisions within the Australian law for a sperm donor, within specific sets of circumstances, to assert the right to be determined as a parent as well."
19/11/19 - 0.00004% of $9billion funding on mental health goes to support of suicidal separating dads at DIDs
Its International Mens Day. Its with interest that we read on news.com.au that $9billion is spent on mental health support and yet, of the three dedicated services for the most at risk of suicide group, one of those (DIDs or Dads in Distress), gets 0.00004% of that funding. Importantly it's also the only support service in Australia dedicated specifically to the most at risk demographic. i.e. separating men.
Despite leading suicide prevention performance, considering how little we spend on this issue, does it surprise anyone that we keep seeing the number of separating men suiciding on the increase. Have we got our national mental health priorities right?
19/11/19 - International Men's Day
Today is International Men's Day. The day we celebrate about all the good things about men and boys, and remember the great causes around men and boys. With that in mind, lets spare a thought and thank the 100+ amazing volunteers - men and women - that devote their time to Dads in Distress; keeping over 350 dads alive and in their kids lives each year. Think what that means, to have perhaps over 600 kids each year get to keep their dad around. If that doesn't make a difference to the future of Australia, we're not sure what does. We're so proud to be one of the only organisations across the developed world to be focussing so successfully on this specific cause. Separated men being the key at risk demographic for suicide in Australia. We could not do it without our team, volunteers and staff alike. Thank you all - way too many to name but know that you are all appreciated, loved and that as you keep going, no matter how hard it gets, you are truly modern day hero's. To mark IMD, we'll be running some expansion events down in Tasmania over the coming weeks and there's a story about one dad coming very soon - watch this space. You can always learn more and find out about other events around the country from the IMD website at www.internationalmensday.info. What will you do for IMD today?
10/10/19 - How to give evidence to the Family Law Inquiry
A question we're being asked a lot lately is how the current family law inquiry works and how to provide evidence to it. Here's the low down to make it easier.
- The inquiry website can be found by clicking here.
- Here are the terms of reference, the list of issues the inquiry will look at. Your submission needs to relate to these terms.
- Here's some guidance around what to submit.
- To make it easier to submit your feedback, the inquiry has prepared a template that you can download by clicking here, complete this template then submit it to the inquiry. If the template link does not work, you can visit the page where it is located here.
- Here's where you'll find information on uploading your completed submission.
- Importantly, submissions close 18th December 2019 so you'll have to get yours in before then.
27/09/19 - Family lawyer speaks up about false claims in family court
"In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Cudmore Legal principal Luke Cudmore explained that courts are required to take all allegations of domestic violence and abuse seriously, and that when confronted with false allegations, the court must err on the side of caution “given the catastrophic consequences of not doing so”."
"But, he said, parties can “abuse this approach” to obtain state domestic violence orders which can operate to prevent all contact between a child and a parent."
"When asked about the actual rates of such false allegations, Mr Cudmore responded: “It is difficult to say, however, I have observed a number of cases where baseless allegations appear to have been made solely for the purpose of limiting the child’s time with the other parent to obtain higher child support payments or a higher percentage split in a property settlement.”
“If the system does not adequately address the potential for abuse of process, it’s likely children will continue to be subjected to psychological abuse by withholding parents.”
Image and extract above courtesy of Lawyers Weekly
20/09/19 - CSA Reform; an insiders perspective
Andrew Vink used to work for the CSA. Rest easy, he doesn't today! Today, he operates an independent support service for those facing complex issues and difficult situations as relates to the CSA.
We've known Andrew for a few years now and he's always well received at public talks that he gives on this most contentious of subjects. In our experience, he doesn't take sides (really) but does give excellent advice, insights and has an outstanding knowledge of all matters CSA. A few days ago we asked Andrew if he had any thoughts around the most recently announced Family Law Inquiry which was to incorporate a look at child support. Here's what he wrote to us.
---------- Andrews article ----------
This is not the first time that government has done a sweeping review of the Child Support Scheme. The Howard Government did this too, and significant changes followed through in 2008. Importantly, the core issues remained.
For those wishing to get involved in this inquiry, when giving your suggested changes consider who it will impact either positively or negatively. Remember the core purpose of the service is to remove the financial burden from the government to the parents (FTB A).
A review could therefore result in higher costs, as one of the things that will always be considered is the "costs" based on what parents tend to spend and not necessarily what basic needs actually cost. I'd say, good luck with that.
Now in addition to this if you have an opportunity there are some key areas where small changes and potential government investment under the current would have significant impact.
- Mandatory child support education as a requirement of settlement. i.e. The CSA and Solicitor have an obligation to advise of - Agreements and settlement, Financial settlement implications, Options, post separation income and change of assessment. The parents independently should be asked prior to knowing what they can pay or get what they see is reasonable and this should go to CSA and if within a percentage of CSA formula could be assessment (more or less) and FTB should align
- Change of assessment reason 8. There should be standard exclusions, Re-enter workforce, Change job, pay rise and one of bonuses such as inheritance. Insurance and injury payment should have mandatory amortisation until customer retirement age or entitlement to government payments i.e three years - even if lodged late and outside 18mth timeline. The impact should better reflect life - that payment is the forever money.
- Working payee at time of separation income should be used if payee has new child so a payer assessment should not drop (her rel dep should be able to impact so a payers still can) - down side if payer a mum should could be held to that income.
- Customers should be told about post separation income and it should be for three CSP periods across case and not just three years after seperation - So can be used as needed to set someone back up - for payer and payee.
The most significant thing they could do, with appropriate funding, is to have extra workers, be it social workers or other, who are available at Centrelink offices to witness drop off and pick up where a parent claims one is not following orders. The order can stipulate what happens in the event that either parent fails to turn up, taking away the incentive to withhold contact for financial support.
Contact costs should be considered where the receiving parent leaves the relationship area. If payer moves away there should be no credit as they choose to do so. Hold each parent $ responsible for their actions.
Estimates; 28 day cooling off with clear information about impacts.
---------- Andrews article ends ----------
Have some feedback for Andrew, a query or need some help? Reach him here.
Andrew is not affiliated with Parents Beyond Breakup but is a leading independent expert to whom we refer parents struggling with Child Support issues.
18/09/19 - PM Confirms that family breakdown is a prime cause of suicide in Australia
Extract from full interview available on 9News.
In the 9News interview, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirms that family breakdown is a prime cause of suicide in Australia. We believe this is accurate and exactly what the latest statistics available from the ABS would seem to confirm.
The largest single definable demographic taking their lives each year in Australia is separating men, making up around 42% of all suicides; each successive group forming a smaller proportion.
It is odd then that this is also the 'most at risk' group that receives the least dedicated support. Our charity Parents Beyond Breakup is also the only dedicated national support organisation in Australia today that is focussed solely on preventing suicide in this critical demographic.
Each year we estimate preventing over 350 suicides and are confident so much more could be achieved with only a little more help. Will it follow the recognition? We hope so. Its desperately needed. Regardless, this Fathers Day 2019, we launched our 20th anniversary campaign (DadsAlive!) to address this challenge. Here's hoping Mr Morrison and the government can get behind that too, and help us deliver the real and practical help separating parents desperately need.
17/09/19 - Federal Govt announces inquiry into family law and child support
The Federal Government will launch an inquiry into the family law system, after accusations the court system is failing vulnerable Australians.
- Coalition backbenchers had joined with Pauline Hanson in pushing for an inquiry into the family law system
- The review, headed up by former social services minister Kevin Andrews, will also examine child support
- A report released earlier this year recommended sweeping changes to the system
Coalition backbenchers and the crossbench, including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, have been calling for an inquiry for some time, arguing the system is too expensive and slow.
The inquiry will be run by former social services minister and long-serving Liberal MP Kevin Andrews.
Yesterday in the Upper House, Senator Hanson demanded urgent action.
"Family law in Australia needs a major review from a practical, non-legal perspective to overcome lengthy delays and costly court actions in an antagonistic, confrontational system," she said.
"Australians have been forced to [endure] the pitfalls of this hugely dysfunctional system for decades."
Nationals backbencher George Christensen welcomed the news on Facebook, saying the inquiry would "address the hurt that many Australians — mums, dads and kids — are feeling at the hands of both the family law and child support systems."
In 2017, the Federal Government ordered the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct a wide-ranging review of the system.
That report was released earlier this year, and recommended sweeping changes including scrapping the current Family Court and giving the states the power to judge such cases.
While waiting for that review to be released, Attorney-General Christian Porter announced plans to merge the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in a bid to ease crippling delays in the system.
That proposal was widely canned by lawyers, arguing it was a policy developed by spreadsheet rather than with the best interests of families at heart.
10/09/19 - Julian Leeser MP on Dads in Distress, World Suicide prevention Day 2019
Julian Leeser talks about Dads in Distress at the launch of the governments new strategy to tackle suicide in Australia. The majority of suicide in Australia is now clearly linked to males experiencing separation, and Dads in Distress is the only national peer support network to focus specifically on this issue and demographic.
Each year, Dads in Distress prevents upwards of 350 suicides from within the greatest 'at risk' group of Australians, yet it is not funded out of the national suicide budget. With additional support, we know a significantly greater number of suicides could be avoided.
To address this challenge, Dads in Distress and parent charity, Parents Beyond Breakup, have launched a self funded national awareness campaign called DadsAlive! in order to reach more people that need help and that are willing to volunteer to help others.
There is room for everyone that wishes to help. Be the future. Be the solution. Click here to learn how you can help us ensure that every child gets to keep their parents, and has the best possible start in life.
The full video including talks by CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, Nieves Murray and Scott Morrison, Prime Minister can be seen in the full video here.
09/09/19 - The question no politician wants to face about suicide
Extract: "World Suicide Prevention Day 2019 is tomorrow, September 10. In theory, it should provide an opportunity to raise honest awareness around the issue, and shine a light on what action we can take to drive the number of suicides down. However, no politician seems to want to face up the truth about soaring rates of male suicide. Deaths from suicide occur at a rate three times higher in men than that of females. The published ABS statistics list the most frequently occurring psychosocial risk factors in coroner-certified deaths in Australia. Top of the list is a personal history of self-harm, followed by disruption of family by separation and divorce, and then problems relating to legal circumstances. So, in light of this, why on earth is society dragging its heels in acknowledging the impact of family law and custody disputes on the heartbreaking suicide rate?"
30/08/19 - Year long celebration for Dads in Distress
Cindy Rochstein, Cindication PR Agency
0437 094 049 / email@example.com
Pete Nicholls, CEO, Parents Beyond Breakup
0419 824 122 / firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Suicide charity for separated dads marks 20th Anniversary on Fathers’ Day
Sydney, Australia, 30 th August 2019
Australia’s leading suicide prevention charity for separated dads celebrates its 20th anniversary
this Fathers’ Day (Sunday 1st September) by launching a new ‘DadsAlive!’ campaign.
Dads in Distress (DIDs) had been providing life-changing support for dads dealing with the
trauma of family separation since launching its first group in Coffs Harbour, NSW on Fathers’
DIDs was founded by a separated dad, Tony Miller (OAM), who had contemplated suicide but
decided to form a group with other ‘Dads in Distress’, which met on his verandah to talk over
their problems and look out for each other.
The DIDs service is now run by a national charity, Parents Beyond Breakup, which provides
support for separating dads who are doing it tough at 25 locations and runs a national helpline.
However, the basic principles of the first group that met on a verandah 20 years ago remain the
same, DIDs is all about providing a friendly space where dads get together, share theirs stories
and look out for blokes who are doing it tough.
Pete Nicholls, CEO of Parents Beyond Breakup said:
“Fathers’ Day can be a tough time of year for dads who are separated from their kids and one
of the busiest days for our helpline staff and volunteers. So as well as looking out for those dads
who need our support, we’ll also be marking our 20-year anniversary this Sunday with the
launch of the DadsAlive! campaign."
“The DadsAlive! campaign will raise awareness of our vital work with separated dads, extend
our support network to reach more ‘dads in distress’ and undertake research to make the case
to Government policymakers to put more resources into supporting separated dads.”
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce sucide among separated men and giving their kids the best start
in life by keeping their dads alive and in their lives.”
At the heart of the DadsAlive campaign is a series of events across the year beginning with
Federal MP Julian Leeser and CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, Nieves Murray, attending a
special 20th anniversary support group in Sydney.
Later this year, the charity will launch a year-long research project into the plight of separated
fathers in Australia. This will include an examination of key challenges faced by separated
fathers and their children, and will outline facts, insights and case studies.
DIDs will prepare a ‘2020 Vision Report’ and publish the findings to mark the end of the 20 th
Year celebrations on Father’s Day in 2020. The research project will be called ‘Lend us your
Voice’ and interested dads can register at www.dadsalive.org.
Did You Know?
● Suicide kills 8 people a day in Australia and 6 of them are men
● Separation is one of the leading life crises linked to male suicide
● Around 1 in 4 male suicides in Australia are linked to separation
26/08/19 - Family Court report writer charged with sexually abusing three children
Exclusive by Heidi Davoren and Josh Robertson, full original article on ABC here.
"An accused paedophile has been used as an expert by the Family Court in custody disputes that involve allegations of child sexual abuse.
- The psychologist remains on bail and the matter has been adjourned to October
- It is alleged the offending occurred many decades ago
- One parent said during a meeting with the psychologist he made her feel extremely uncomfortable
The psychologist, who has since been charged with sexually abusing three children, was appointed by the Family Court to make custody recommendations in cases where one parent had accused the other of sexual abuse.
One of Australia's foremost family law experts said it could open the way for custody rulings involving the expert to be overturned.
University of Queensland professor Patrick Parkinson, said a child sex abuse conviction could "absolutely" give a parent grounds to seek to quash custody rulings linked to the psychologist.
"In a situation where the judicial decision was based on, or was influenced by, a report which, in the light of subsequent events, one might cast doubt upon the reliability of it, I would have thought that would be grounds to reopen it," he said.
"The fact that a [an expert] has been convicted would in my view amount to, in itself, sufficient changed circumstances for the court to look at the case again — in the light of the current circumstances of the child."
Even the charges, coupled with other changes in circumstances could form grounds to challenge a custody ruling, he said.
The psychologist remains on bail and the matter has been adjourned to October.
The psychologist cannot be identified for legal reasons.
The family law system has come under heavy scrutiny after recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in March that included sweeping changes and a call to abolish the federal system altogether.
The ALRC recommended the Family Court introduce mandatory accreditation for family report writers, otherwise known as single expert witnesses, after concerns over the quality of their reports and qualifications.
In June the ABC revealed a Sydney psychiatrist was the subject of numerous complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), that would not be investigated after the HCCC stated it did "not have the power".
The Family Court stated on April 1 that the psychiatrist was not among its in-house report writers and it did not keep track of private report writers used in cases.
However, the ABC has seen documents that show the psychiatrist was still being considered by parents as a report writer in May.
The ALRC says a national training program for report writers is being worked on in consultation with the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and the federal Attorney-General's Department.
However, an influential AFCC member involved in representations to the Government was, just months ago, cautioned by the medical watchdog for breaching a parent's privacy including by running therapy in a wine bar.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General said the department was not involved in the development of the training but was being kept informed by the AFCC.
He referred questions back to the AFCC and the Family Court.
The AFCC did not respond to specific questions about the training, which is not mandatory for court-appointed experts.
But AFCC board member and former Family Court chief justice Diana Bryant, emailed the ABC a brochure of an AFCC advertisement promoting "Family Report Writer Training".
On the AFCC website the three introductory training modules are listed at $400 each.
The site promoted the 2020 "masterclasses" being held in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.
A Family Court spokeswoman said it was unable to comment on the training program."
*Names have been withheld for legal reasons.
22/08/19 - Family Law WA and the Margaret River Murders
"I wouldn't say it's broken - it never worked from the start."
Aaron Cockman on the family law system.
"While many details about the Margaret River mass murder are still unknown one year on, the spotlight has recently been turned towards the WA family law system, and the Cockmans say there are still lessons to be learned from the tragic event. Last week, WA parliament announced it would hold an inquiry into family issues in the magistrate courts, and a Mandurah forum that attracted about 200 people wishing to vent their frustrations about the system was held last Monday."
Earlier related articles in the WA Times include the following.
21/08/19 - Dealing with Divorce and Separation (Channel 7)
Click link above to visit / listen to the free podcast.
Follows with Pete Nicholls , CEO Parents Beyond Breakup (Dads in Distress) at 16.45 min mark.
Alex Cullen: "Breakups are never easy for anyone… but when there are kids involved it just tends to get messy and heartbreak is unavoidable. As blokes we tend to bottle it all up and just soldier on , mainly because we don’t really know what else to do…until it all comes to a head and … well then what? What can we do, how do we as dads do right by ourselves and by our kids and even our ex. I spoke to a guy who has faced this question and has done something about it. Pete Nicholls is CEO of Parents Beyond Break-Up who run the Dads in Distress support groups. Pete and his team run an amazing support network and they are committed to responding to your call without exception."
For free and confidential support, contact Dads in Distress on 1300 853437 and www.dids.org.au.
#alexlaguna #petenicholls #dadsindistress #parentsbeyondseparation #tonymiller #alexcullen
16/08/19 - Child-Support Payments and Parental Alienation
"Parental alienation can devastate the relationship between parents and children. It can be a central issue in child custody disputes. There is, however, an apparent link between the child support scheme and malicious attempts by some custodial parents to completely eradicate the relationship between the child and the other parent."
"One of the undeniable facts about divorce is that children often adapt better to their parents’ separation if they are allowed to have a continuing contact with both parents. Indeed, a recurring theme in the field of child psychoanalysis is that children of divorced parents often desire to develop a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, including their non-residential parents."
"According to a significant academic paper endorsed by 110 leading international experts, it is not correct to assume that sharing overnight care is necessarily problematic for the little child. Written by Richard A. Warshak, this peer-reviewed academic article analyses existing research and it finds that little children commonly develop attachment relationships with more than one caregiver. It also finds that, in normal circumstances, children are likely to do considerably better if they have overnight contact with both parents. Thus the article concludes, beyond reasonable doubt, that ‘sufficient evidence does not exist to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. The theoretical and practical considerations favoring overnights for most young children are more compelling than concerns that overnights might jeopardize children’s development’"
"This leads to the important discussion of government policies in Australia. Policies across many areas of public administration appear to tacitly endorse the concept of easily available divorce. In doing so these government policies have seriously encouraged the irresponsible behavior of parents who apply for a divorce at the first sign of trouble with their relationship. Instead of trying to resolve their problems, state-sponsored financial incentives will tempt a parent to leave the marriage and subsequently alienate their children from the other parent, so as to collect a sole parent’s pension in the form of support payments."
"Here in Australia the Department of Human Services (DoHS) is the federal agency responsible for determining the level of financial support that non-residential parents are expected to pay. The amount is based on the amount of care received by a child from each parent, which is then determined by the time this child spends with his or her non-residential parent. There are some obvious financial advantages available for those who maliciously alienate another parent from their children. Indeed, support payments have become a lucrative reward for a more narcissistic parent who make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the other parent to develop any meaningful relationship with their children. After all, if the non-residential parent spends a more substantial or meaningful time with his children, then the amount paid to the other parent is lower than it would be if the relationship with that other parent had completely broken down, or if their children were cared for after separation entirely by one parent."
"Originally justified as a method of recovering welfare costs, child-support payments have been transformed into a massive subsidy on unilateral divorce. Because in a ‘no-fault’ system nobody can contest a unilateral divorce, these payments are an entitlement to be assessed on parents and even on those who are unwillingly divorced against their will. As a result, a loving parent may be forcibly separated from his or her children, and such payments awarded ostensibly and regardless of any reference to ‘fault’. As noted by U.S. sociology professor Stephen Baskerville:
No-fault divorce allowed a mother to divorce her husband for any reason or no reason and to take the children with her. Child support took the process a step further by allowing the divorcing mother to use the now-fatherless children to claim her husband’s income – also regardless of any fault on her part (or lack of fault on his) in abrogating the marriage agreement.
Across Australia, many parents are being told in mediation sessions or by lawyers that there is no hope of overnight contact with their children. In view of the financial reward acquired, the position of some parents is that the other parent should spend the littlest time possible with their children. A parent holding temporary custody may decide to procrastinate custody litigation so as to prevent the other parent’s access to their children. When this awful situation occurs, a loving parent may completely lose access to their children through no fault or agreement of their volition."
"What is happening is not merely an accident but the product of a radical ideology that has declared open war on the institution of marriage. As stated in a January, 2015, submission of the Australian Family Association to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program, womens groups’ that had also lodged submissions to that same inquiry have displayed a remarkable lack of consideration or recognition of the problems that non-residential parents might face."
The above is selected extract from the longer original article available here.
07/08/19 - Sydney private school principal issues stern rebuke to warring parents
The head of one of Sydney's top private schools has warned that denying children access to their fathers when the parents' relationships break down can lead to girls seeking "inappropriate contact" with other males, and boys rejecting their mothers.
In a newsletter to parents, John Collier from St Andrews Cathedral School said he had seen the ramifications of separation for almost 30 years, watching parents become so absorbed with their own battles that they overlooked the impact on their child.
"Presumably subconsciously, [some parents are] prepared to forfeit the interests of the child for the sake of tactical advantage in the ongoing battle with their ex-partner," said Dr Collier. "When parents are at war with one another, my experience is that the child almost invariably suffers."
06/08/19 - Dad takes his life after incorrect child support assessment & associated debt
The family of a Melbourne dad who took his own life a day after he was given an incorrect child support debt notice has called for the government's controversial robo-debt system to be scrapped.
Anthony Searl, 38, was a charismatic TV cameraman who worked for Nine. He suicided two years ago after receiving the last in a series of letters from the Department of Human Service telling him he owed money, sister Wendy Searl said.
Last week, nine.com.au reported on the case of another man, 22-year-old Queenslander Jarrad Madgwick, whose mother said he took his own life just hours after finding out he had a Centrelink debt of $2000.
Ms Searl said she was devastated to hear the news of Mr Madgwick's death.
"How is this still happening? I am absolutely shattered for this young man's mother. His story sounds so similar to what happened with Anthony," Ms Searl said.
25/07/19 - Word on the street, ABC Radio Darwin
Dads in Distress coming to Darwin. PBB CEO Pete Nicholls on ABC Radio Darwin, speaking live from the Melbourne National Suicide Conference.
What is suicide for men all about? Links between suicide and family breakdown and whats new for Darwin.
24/07/19 - Parental Alienation officially recognised by World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation accepted the current version of ICD-11 which contains within it the index term parental alienation for the code QE.52 Caregiver-Child Relationship Problem.
This change is to take effect from 1st January 2022.
"Member states agreed today to adopt the eleventh revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11), to come into effect on 1 January 2022.
ICD is the foundation for the identification of health trends and statistics globally, and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is the diagnostic classification standard for all clinical and research purposes. ICD defines the universe of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions.
The ICD also captures factors influencing health, or external causes of mortality and morbidity, providing an holistic look at every aspect of life that can affect health."
23/07/19 - Relationship breakdown officially linked to suicide
The ABS has now published 2017 suicide data breakdowns indicating the leading psycho-social factors that are linked to suicide. The top listed factor, self harm, might be considered symptomatic of underlying mental health rather than a driver of suicide. Moving to items 2 and 3 on the list, we move into relationship breakdown.
- Z635 Disruption of family by separation and divorce, and
- Z630 Problems in relationship with spouse or partner
The above two factors are linked to a combined total of 818 suicides, out of a total of 1,966 deaths by suicide that 'could be linked to' a specific psycho-social factors. This means that, when the factors are known, 41.6% of suicides are related to family & relationship difficulty or breakdown.
Factor or item 4 is related to legal problems and there is no additional insight into what these are at this time, but it's logical to assume that it would include matters such as DV and custodial issues, which again relate to relationship breakdown. To be clear, it is unknown the extent to which this is true.
17/07/19 - Fabulous dad daughter story!
Sometimes it's easy to forget the great stories. Here's one that arrived in our inbox today. Dad and daughter - we won't share their names - were happy for us to share both the pic (shown left) and the message. We think its great, and may encourage a few more to make the effort to come along. Whats holding you back? The daughter wrote to us:
"On Thursday morning I said goodbye to my father as he left to go work in Victoria. The photo that I’m going to send below (which was taken Wednesday night) would NEVER of been possible if it wasn’t for your amazing organisation! My father has over come many mental obstacles and struggles since the divorce 11 years ago. And my gratitude for this organisation couldn’t be any bigger than it is today. As a child of separation I couldn’t imagine my life with out my father in it, daughters need their fathers too. My dad still wears his DIDDs shirt any chance he can in hopes to struck a conversation and raise awareness. Again, thank you all so much for the amazing work you’re all doing for our fathers!"
12/07/19 - Alex Cullen Interviewing PBB CEO for Channel 7
More soon, including the podcast. Recorded today with Pete Nicholls, CEO of Parents Beyond Breakup, on the impact of separation and divorce on men, particularly dads. Key issues discussed include the drivers of male suicide, links to family breakdown and 'situational distress' versus traditional views of mental health.
11/07/19 - How child support doesn't work, but could
Original article on www.fatherhood.org
This is a US article but has some great insights for Australian child support.
"Help. Such a simple, powerful concept.
Unfortunately, it’s a concept that’s often overlooked when it comes to getting dads who owe child support to pay up.
For parents in Colorado who owed child support—the vast majority of whom were dads—help is exactly what they got from the Colorado Parent Employment Program (CO-PEP), an innovation of the Colorado Department of Human Services. And what a difference it made in child support payments.
The key to the success of CO-PEP was taking a two-generation approach—2Gen, for short—to better understand the needs of the entire family, parents and children. CO-PEP focused on parents who were “willing, but unable to pay” and who were “willing to engage in work, treatment, and other supports” that would help them to pay and pay regularly. The results were remarkable as described in the following excerpt from a brief on CO-PEP by Ascend at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit that specializes in helping states and organizations implement 2Gen programs and initiatives including CO-PEP.
“Of the 1,500 parents who were behind on their support payments, 85 percent were men. In order to rigorously assess the efficacy of the approach, half of this cohort were handled with the traditional, outdated child support enforcement practices. The other half were assigned a case manager whose mission was to figure out why the parents were not making payments and to help them overcome those barriers. In return for parents agreeing to engage in services, the division agreed not to suspend driver’s licenses or seek other sanctions. Within six months, two-thirds of these parents (who were either unemployed or under-employed when they entered CO-PEP) had full-time employment. Within a year, three-quarters were working and increased their payments.”
While reading the brief will help you learn more about CO-PEP, there’s nothing like hearing from parents and case managers who participated in it. Watch the powerful report below from Rocky Mountain PBS to learn more about why CO-PEP had such a remarkable impact. It features the work of Jefferson County Human Services, an agency in one of five counties that participated in CO-PEP and a long-time partner of National Fatherhood Initiative®.
To learn more about CO-PEP, I encourage you to read the brief.
10/07/19 - Whitewashing the truth of why men kill themselves
Original article on www.afr.com
Relationship troubles, not mental health, lie behind the plague of male suicides, writes Bettina Arndt.
Imagine the outcry if a man was appointed head of a leading domestic violence prevention organisation? So how come the federal government has just proudly announced a woman, Christine Morgan, as National Suicide Prevention Officer? This is just the latest move by a government determined to deny the fact that suicide is overwhelmingly a male problem, with six out of eight of our daily suicides taking the lives of men.
Amazingly the recently released National Suicide Prevention Implementation Plan is proudly “gender neutral”, failing to acknowledge that men not only dominate suicide statistics but offering no special programmes to address the unique causes of male suicide, which differ dramatically from those of women who end their own lives.
The alleged link to mental health problems is the most glaring mistake. “Around 80 per cent of people who die by suicide have a mental health issue,” declared ScoMo yesterday when announcing Morgan’s appointment. No, Prime Minister. That’s simply not true of men, the major group at risk. Australian research shows over half of all male suicides, 78 per cent of male farmer suicides and 83 per cent of suicides in older men were not predominantly associated with a mental health diagnosis – according to the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention and other related studies.
Most vulnerable group
The government proudly declares they are working towards a zero suicide goal yet the PM lists as those most at risk, “veterans, Indigenous Australians and young people”. Not one word about the most vulnerable group – the ordinary men, particularly family men in their 30s and 40s losing their families.
That’s the elephant in the room that our governments are determined to ignore. There’s solid evidence that the major cause of suicide in this country is not mental health problems but rather the toll taken by family break-up, where fathers often face mighty battles trying to stay part of their children’s lives, up against a biased family law system which fails to enforce contact orders, and often facing false violence allegations which are now routinely used to gain advantage in family court battles.
Research by the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention found that almost half of male suicides are linked with relationship issues, one in 20 are linked to child custody issues, one in 10 to pending legal matters. That’s the glaring gender difference – with male suicide three to four times more likely than female suicide to be linked to relationship break-up and child custody.
This evidence has been accumulating for years and no one wants to talk about it. Remember that lavish ABC series, Man Up, made by radio star Gus Worland? Hours of television focusing on the high male suicide rate, endlessly discussing why men won’t talk about their feelings – and barely a word about why men are killing themselves. Last year Worland’s new charity, Gotcha4Life, raised nearly half a million dollars to “save the lives of men suffering mental illness”, money to be spent mainly on programmes in schools teaching boys to express their feelings.
The high male suicide rate is strongly related to relationship breakdowns.
Whenever there’s a known link to female suicide, like postpartum depression, the money pours in to properly address the problem. Yet men struggling to deal with the devastating consequences of dealing with family break-up are given no support.
Key organisations providing support for men in these circumstance – like Dads in Distress – face constant battles for funding.
Maybe it is time for the quiet Australians to speak out about this shocking whitewashing of the proper facts about suicide in this country. Contact your MP, ring radio stations, use social media posts to protest the government’s wrong-fisted handling of this important social issue. The six men dying each day in Australia deserve the truth to be told.
20/06/19 - ALRC Report User Stories
"As part of the Family Law Inquiry, the ALRC established the 'Tell Us Your Story' project — an online submission portal where individuals were encouraged to anonymously share personal stories of their experiences with the family law system. The attached [linked] PDF note provides aggregated data regarding the number and nature of individual stories that included complaints against actors in the family law system and about the system in general. This note is intended to supplement the ALRC’s final report, which provides, at Chapter 3, a high level summary of the data collected from the Tell Us Your Story project."
11/04/19 - 11 Tips to make your Divorce less stressful
Original article from thriveglobal.com can be found here
We have a LEGAL system not a JUSTICE system.
- No one knows what will happen in court except that no one wins.
- Don’t mistake the courthouse as a place where your spouse will be penalized for being difficult and where you will be rewarded for putting up with it for so long.
Interview more than one lawyer.
- Your divorce settlement is one of the most significant financial and family plans of your life, so be certain that you are working with the right person.
- Often people hire the first lawyer they meet, but each lawyer has a different bedside manner, philosophy, strategy, and relationship with the other professionals and the court.
- Meet with more than one and compare notes. Are they an ally for your family, or themselves?
Divorce is full-time job.
- It often comes as a surprise how much time and work are required to organize the voluminous documentation, meet with professionals, and explore strategies, not to mention the tremendous upheaval at home and in our hearts.
- How do we take this on and manage our real jobs and now single parenting? It is a significant life transition that is quite literally another full-time job.
- Redefine priorities and adopt health & wellness practices that help you manage time, emotion & boundaries for the long haul.
Be an active participant in your own divorce.
- This is your family and your business contract. Educate yourself, ask questions, deconstruct your finances, build a spending plan, and work with the right experts so that you make informed decisions for your future, your spouse’s future and your children’s future.
- If you actively participate and partner with your professionals, they will be far more effective in guiding you to settlement.
Be very selective about the voices in your ear.
- Emotional support is one thing, but stay focused on a constructive process, not a destructive one because of what your friends and family think about your soon-to-be Ex.
- Often loved ones believe they are showing you support when in fact they are inadvertently feeding adversity.
Do not expect your Ex to make-up or “pay” for emotional pain.
- Punitive damages for emotional stress do not exist in family law. The divorce process is not the place to extract payment for an unhappy marriage or bad behavior.
- Rather than focus on your spouse and the past, focus on yourself and how different life will be free from strife.
You know your spouse better than anyone; trust your intuition.
- No one knows your spouse better than you do; don’t allow the professionals to dismiss legitimate ideas or concerns that you might have.
- Be the architect of a process and solution that is successful for both you and your spouse.
Lawyers are capable of escalating adversity with the simple stroke of their pen.
- Some lawyers use a writing style that is without a doubt directly rude and condescending to your spouse. This is not a requirement of the process.
- When a lawyer uses this technique all it does is escalate conflict which means greater cost and rarely does it lead to a more generous settlement.
- Not all lawyers are created equal, so while there are family law attorneys who are complicit in needlessly escalating adversity and fees, there are many reasonable, ethical, and solution-oriented attorneys. It is worth taking the time to find them. Do your research.
- The overload of emotional triggers is so profound that there isn’t one spouse who doesn’t utter, at one point or another, “I don’t recognize my spouse, this isn’t the person I married” (and if they are honest with themselves, “I don’t recognize myself”.)
- Try to step back, be gentle with yourself and allow space for temporary insanity. It is just temporary!
Respond, do not React, to inflammatory texts, email or voice mail.
- If you are on the receiving end of inflammatory communication, allow space for reaction and then respond. Don’t be fooled into engaging with the bully. Everyone is the worst version of themselves, and when in reaction, that can spiral.
- Create boundaries around when you open the communication (perhaps not at work or with the kids in the car).
- Draft responses, but don’t send them for 24 hours after you have had time to think. Use whatever method works for you, but whenever possible, throw water, not gas on the flame.
If you are married to a personality disorder…
- We have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we do not have a system that protects spouses when they are married to a personality disorder.
- Personality disorders can affect one’s fundamental ability to compromise, be “fair,” and be compassionate about someone else’s needs. This means that the healthy spouse can chase a fair compromise forever without success, a devastating and costly pursuit.
- But, now for the good news. Now you know! Knowledge is power.
- If you know that your spouse has a personality disorder, then you have the power to identify when and how to get out. It might not be with “fair” terms, but you will be free to put all your energy and resources into your future rather than your past.
24/01/19 - Dads on the Air interview
15/05/18 - PBB Position Statement on Separated Parenting and Fathers
Overview of PBB's 6 key policy positions:
- PBB supports the principle of evidence-based policy and advocates for ongoing research into the needs of children separated from their parent(s)
- PBB supports the development of policies that support and enable father involvement in general, and in particular the ongoing involvement of separated parents in their children’s lives.
- PBB supports the development of men’s health policies that respond to the specific needs of separated fathers.
- PBB supports the development of suicide prevention policies that respond to the specific needs of separated fathers.
- PBB supports the development of policies to reduce all forms of violence and to evaluate and address the unintended consequences of existing policy on men and their children
- PBB supports a Royal Commission into the family law system in Australia.
16/04/18 - BBC report PBB's help to a Scottish suicide charity
An Australian suicide prevention charity is to share ideas with a north east of Scotland awareness group after learning of its efforts to help men going through a relationship break-up.
Choose Life found men accounted for about 80% of people taking their own life in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Failing relationships played a significant part in a majority.
Parents Beyond Breakup saw the BBC story and made contact with Choose Life in the hope of preventing deaths.
Choose Life had appealed for men to suggest how support services can help.
Pete Nicholls, chief executive of Parents Beyond Breakup, told the BBC Scotland news website from Australia: “As soon as I saw the BBC article, I wanted to speak to Choose Life.
“We’ve been hugely successful in limiting male suicide post-separation and wanted to make contact to discuss sharing of best practice.
“Male suicide is considered as a mental health issue but we are finding most male suicide is situational distress. I went through this myself.
“However, if you show them how to navigate through it then they do not commit suicide. If you sit down with peers, they stop being suicidal.”
Choose Life Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire co-ordinator Iain Murray said the contact from Parents Beyond Breakup in Australia was a “significant connection”.
He explained of their current campaign: “During April we’re gathering questions, thoughts and experiences through the Choose Life Prevent Suicide North East Scotland Facebook page and also we’ve set 10 locations in Aberdeenshire and the city where people can physically drop off their comments.
“What we’ve discovered having looked at some data is that males in particular seem to really struggle with relationship break-ups, and in relation to suicides in the north east, that’s one of the most prominent factors we’ve noticed.”