Equal time shared care arrangement between separated parents

Fathers don’t have it easy. As much as they would want to spend time with their kids, they shoulder most of the burden of financially providing for their kids’ needs.  In some cases, the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act have no practical effect on fathers.

More specifically, the amendment to the Family Law Act is the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parenting Responsibility) Act 2006 which became effective last July 1, 2006. The change in the law provides the presumption that equal shared parental responsibility would be in the child’s best interests. Under the 2006 amendments, the court can award either equal or substantial and significant time spent with the child.

Fathers celebrated the arrival of the 2006 amendments thinking that it will pave the way for them to be a significant presence in their children’s lives. The law is already established but the implementation of is still lacking. Fathers are complaining that the amendments in the law are not of much use to them since they still do not get to spend sufficient time with their child.

First of all, fathers bear the brunt of the financial aspects of raising a child, and thus they need to keep full-time jobs. Some fathers even have double or multiple jobs to pay for child support and spousal maintenance. So, even if the court makes an order that a father is to have equal time spent with his child, he still cannot do so because he needs to work. The father would just end up violating a parenting order if he pushes for equal time with the child. Violation of a parenting order might cause a father to lose his parenting rights.

Unfortunately, the changes in the family law act do not mandate special considerations to be made by the employment sector. Fathers who have full-time and multiple jobs do not have the same flexible schedules that are mostly granted to mothers. Employers are more inclined to give a day off or time off to mothers than they would give to fathers. Only the usual concessions are awarded to fathers such as being granted leave from work with pay or without pay and rest days. Clearly, the good intention of the law does not carry it over to the real world of fathers.

Well, at the very least, fathers can have significant and substantial time with their children. While equal time is preferable, being able to spend time with their children during weekends, holidays and special occasions are the next best thing for fathers.

The 2006 amendments is also a milestone for fathers who for many years have been excluded from parenting because of accusations of family violence and conflict. Shared parenting also now allows fathers to participate in decision making with respect to long-term issues. Fathers now have a say on important matters like where their children can go to school or which vaccines their children could have.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Certainly, fathers need some support from their employers so they can be real Dads to their kids. 

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