In Australia, the State can intervene in family life where dysfunctional families are involved and, subject to available resources, can seek to protect the children affected. However, when the daughter of friends of mine left home as a very young teenager to live with her best friend and her single mother, the authorities would not intervene. They could not even tell the parents where their daughter was living, they said.
Were not the parents responsible for the child until she was 18, when she would be deemed to be an adult? Yet, a precedent had been set. A child had been granted the right to divorce his parents, presumably with assistance from officialdom.
Children in families disfigured by parental tension can be affected by the State only when the Family Court is involved. When I last looked at it, male lawyers decided the relative rights of divorcing parents, generally favouring the mother – allegedly because, as it was once claimed, this is what the community expected. I did wonder how they ascertained that.
When the mother denied or reduced the father’s right to continuing some sort of relationship with his children, reportedly nothing happens to remedy the situation; the Court did not enforce its own decisions relating to the right of the father. Worse still, another bureaucracy decided the percentage of the father’s income to be paid to support the children he might not see as often as had been decided, perhaps never. The percentage was based on total income; that is, before compulsory deductions such as tax and superannuation.
Did this practice reflect a certain moral judgement? The view being propagated by the ‘sisterhood’ in the community was that it was physical violence (later extended to include psychological and oral violence) by men that was responsible for marital breakdown. What about female violence? I can testify to its reality from personal experience. I wore scratches on my face for 2 years (in 2 countries), without retaliation. It was an interesting experience.
Reportedlyy, many fathers subject to this financial burden quit their jobs; others were reported to be suiciding at the rate of 1/week. I do not know if this situation applies now. A few women of my vintage have told me that their sons were reluctant to marry and have children in these circumstances. What sort of society are we allowing to develop?
Do governments have a role in strengthening the family and thereby society?