Opinion & Debate

Published on June 28th, 2013 | by Kelly Rose Bradford


Parents court controversy over homework

No matter how tricky, frustrating and down right fury-inducing I find co-parenting at times, there are two things I always try to focus on. One, that whatever the situation causing such outrage is, the most important aspect of it is the best outcome for our child, and two, that unless something hideous and totally beyond the realms of reasonable behaviour occurs, I do not want to ever have decisions about our child made for us by the family court.

And I am always surprised – again, unless there is some major issue going on, like abuse, drug or alcohol probs – that some mums and dads will choose to take the most ridiculous of shared-parenting feuds to the court room.

A recently reported case in Sydney left me with slack-jawed amazement at just how petty some mums and dads can be post-separation.

Here’s the deal: in this case, the dad shares custody of his 12-year-old daughter with her mother. They had separated when the child was eight-months-old, and the dad has since re-married.

They have battled most of their parenting arrangements out in the Family Court since 2003, with judges previously ruling the girl should live primarily with the mum, but with shared custody with the father.

Relations between the mum and dad are said to be ‘so strained that they communicate by email’ (which is not necessarily a bad thing…) and they’ve reportedly sought legal rulings on everything from the girl’s surname to contact arrangements .

So far, I suppose so kind of run-of-the-mill stuff in ‘difficult’ relationship break ups. Wouldn’t be my choice to have a court making any kind of orders regarding my child, but seemingly this pair are so antagonistic towards each other that they need outside intervention.

But it’s this current court room saga that has made the news and, along with stunning me into ‘you what?’ silence, has made me think that despite regular ‘heated’ discussions and fallings out over the silliest of things (there was once a week long row over a missing jumper) that actually, me and my ex don’t do too badly…

In the latest instalment in this poor child’s life, her parents are seeking a legal ruling over her doing her HOMEWORK.

The dad asked the court to order his ex-wife to make sure she does it, while the mum said it wasn’t a case of her not getting her to do it, simply that she wouldn’t (she claimed she had ‘trouble’ getting the girl to take her ‘homework, projects and musical instrument to her father’s place to complete and practice’.)

Thankfully, Federal Circuit Court judge Stephen Scarlett has refused to make a ‘homework order’ on the grounds it would be ‘unenforceable’.

“It involves an undesirable micromanaging of the parties in the performance of their role as parents,” he said (and I can’t help but wonder if he shook his head, rolled his eyes and muttered FFS several times as he heard the case).

The Australian Telegraph reports that a ‘family consultant’ who interviewed the parents in 2010 found they had a ‘very poor parenting relationship which is resistant to change’ – something which seems to me, blindingly apparent by taking this issue to the courts.

What do you think? Should post-separation parenting be kept away from judicial processes unless there are serious issues at stake?

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About the Author

Kelly Rose Bradford

is a London-based journalist and broadcaster, writing for the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sunday Telegraph, and a host of women's magazines. Her robust opinions and feisty debating skills make her in demand as a social commentator, regularly guesting on ITV's This Morning programme, and across many radio stations, including 5 Live and BBC Radio London.

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