2 February 2011
According to the study, approximate one in ten children of separated parents never see their fathers more than a year after their parents' relationship has ended, despite changes by the Howard government that emphasised greater shared parental responsibility.
In an interview with The Age, Professor Parkinson said that for babies, seeing their father only during the day could be positive, because they need constancy. Many of those in the study had children who were preschool.
''The best outcome for preschoolers is really to see the other parent frequently but not to have extended absences from the primary carer,'' he said.
Of those fathers who did not see their children at all, Professor Parkinson said the main reasons were distance and a high level of conflict between the parents, where the mother was strongly resistant to the father having contact.
Some of these fathers gave up ''not because they don't love their kids, it's just too hard''.
In addition, in an article published in The Brisbane Times, Professor Parkinson addressed concerns that fathers expect equal custody arrangements, regardless of the interests of the child.
"It's only one of many options that can work, depending on the circumstances," he told Australian Associated Press (AAP), noting in many cases sole custody arrangements are needed.
"It may actually prevent judges from making the hard calls they ought to."
Professor Parkinson pointed out that Australia is lagging behind other developed countries when it comes to shared parenting arrangements.
But he said the barriers are not legal, but social and economic.
"A lot of people try shared care but it doesn't last longer than a year," he said, explaining parents often need to find cheaper accommodation away from their children.
Labor has proposed amendments to the Family Law Act, which Professor Parkinson said will only make a difference "at the very margins".
The draft laws incorporate a UN convention on children's rights, which would compel the court to consider protecting a child above custody rights.
Contact: Greg Sherington
Phone: +61 2 9351 0202