Dad weighs his 43kg daughter in diet fight with mum

weightloss feet on scaleA COURT has stepped in to ban two Melbourne parents from weighing their eight-year-old daughter.

The girl, who tips the scales at 43kg, is the centre of a fight over who is responsible for her weight gain.

Federal Magistrates’ Court heard the argument had become so bitter that the father, 57, had started taking his daughter to a doctor for a weigh-in before and after her custody visits with her mother.

He told the court it was a “terrible” but necessary step to protect himself from blame. He had been reluctant to do it, but he denied it harmed his daughter’s self-esteem or confidence.

“It’s within her interests to do so, because she always feels pleased that she loses weight,” he said.

“It was necessary to show that every time she comes back from her mother, she was a lot more than what she was when she left. How sad.”

The man said his daughter was not excessively overweight and a doctor said she might “grow out of it”.

He also claimed the mother called her daughter fat and it discouraged her from being truthful about what she had been eating. But the mother, 51, said she was firm with her daughter about not eating junk food.

The court heard the mum controlled portion sizes to the point where her daughter complained about the small amounts of food she was getting for dinner. The mother said she ensured the girl had a healthy diet, did regular exercise, and she would enrol her in swimming.

The mother criticised the father for the size of the meals he served and for giving her potato chips as a school snack. She said since the girl had been mainly in her father’s care she had gained “a considerable amount of weight”.

The court heard the girl had been bullied at school. She had complained she didn’t have any friends because others at school called her fat, chubby, or even “fatso”.

Federal magistrate Toni Lucev said both parents were generally loving and caring, but the father’s constant weight-checking ignored the effect on the girl’s confidence.

He also questioned why parents worried about their daughter’s weight used a takeaway restaurant as a custody handover point. He ordered they change to a library.

Katie Bice


Abortion & pregnancy termination – who has jurisdiction?

unborn-child & abortion lawsIs an unborn child still a “child” under the Family Law Act?

In the recent case of Talbot & Norman [2012] a father sought urgent Orders restraining his former partner from terminating a pregnancy.  Justice Peter Murphy of the Family Court of Australia found that the Family Court has no jurisdiction to make such Order when it comes to pregnancy termination (abortion).

The Court reiterated that reference to the word “child” within the Family Law Act does not include an unborn child.

Talbot was a case concerning a couple who had not married, therefore the child, once born, would be an ‘ex-nuptial child’. The Court, in its judgment, discussed the case of In the Marriage of F (1989) which discussed in detail similar issues.  Justice Travis Lindenmayer refused the application In the Marriage of F for a number of reasons:

  1. At common law the Husbands ‘right to procreate’ did not extend to the husband having a right to force the wife to carry through the pregnancy, contrary to her wish not to do so.
  2. The husbands asserted that the unborn child has a right to protection against abortion and that the husband may enforce that right on behalf of the child. The court found no such right existed and that a foetus has no legal personality and cannot have a right of its own until it is born and is a separate existence from its mother.
  3. The husband submitted that the term ‘child’ within the family law act includes an unborn child. The Court found that the term child is confined to a living child.

The final basis that the husband sought an order In the Marriage of F was pursuant to Section 114 of the Family Law Act. The court found that as the child was a child of a marriage the court had additional jurisdiction to hear the application for injunction. However, notwithstanding this additional jurisdiction the Court found that it was not proper to make such an Order and confirmed the long held common law principles as noted above that the husband had no right which would enable him to seek such an order and that the unborn child has no legal right to be born which the Family Court could protect.

While the final matter could not be reconsidered in Talbot as the child was not a child to a marriage and the court has again reinforced the reasoning set out In the Marriage of F that the Court does not have the power to make Orders regarding an unborn child and under the Family Law Act the Family Courts jurisdictional power only extends to children once born.

Divorce is bad for bank account: research

divorceDivorce is bad for your bank account, particularly for those who stay single, new research shows.

With divorced single men having $762,000 less in assets at age 55 than those who have stayed married, and divorced single women having about $645,000 less than women who have stayed married, the research shows a bleak financial outlook for divorcees.

The joint research conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), the Australian National University and the University of Queensland involved almost 7700 households from 2001 to 2010.

It found those who divorce were likely to have had lower household incomes prior to their marriage break-up than those who remained married.

Unless they remarried, the divorce then widened the financial gap.

Men who stayed married had a median net household assets level of $1.044 million in the age range 55-64, while their single divorced counterparts had just $282,000 in assets.

Those who had divorced and repartnered fared better, with a median level of $844,000 in the same age range.

For single divorced women, the outlook was also poorer compared to those who stayed married.

At ages 55-64, women who stayed in their first marriage had a median assets level of $1 million, while their single divorced counterparts had $355,000.

Divorced women who repartnered fared better, having a median asset level of $809,000 in that age range.

AIFS senior research fellow Lixia Qu said 55- to 64-year-old single divorced women might fare better in asset levels than their exes, because they more often became the primary carer for children and so kept the family home.

But she said divorce had a significant financial impact through to retirement for both parties.

“Divorce has a big impact on both men and women, whose assets continue to fall behind married households,” Dr Qu said in a statement.

“And this impacts significantly on retirement income for divorced men and women who remained single, making them more reliant on government support to get by.”

Divorce also had a significant impact on women’s immediate equivalised income levels, a figure which adjusts actual income to take into account the number and age of people living in a household.

While men’s equivalised income levels generally continued to rise, women’s dipped considerably immediately after a divorce, but often recovered over six or seven years through a combination of increased employment, repartnering and increased government benefits.


Teens get cash bonus, no strings

Schoolkids-bonus, welfareTEENAGERS have been paid the SchoolKids bonus of up to $820 directly into their bank accounts – and they don’t have to show how they spend it.

The Daily Telegraph has learned some students aged 16-19 on Youth Allowance received the no-strings-attached payment in June.

It is almost four times the amount of the $220.40 fortnightly Youth Allowance payments given to students who are under 18 and living at home.

The SchoolKids Bonus is designed to help pay for education costs at primary and high school, and the majority of payments were made to families receiving family tax benefit part A.

However, full-time students aged 16-19 on Youth Allowance, AbStudy (living allowance) or the disability support pension with pensioner education supplement are also eligible for the bonus.

Federal opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the “cash splash” could be spent on anything from a new pair of sneakers “to a trip down to the local pub and a flutter on the pokies”.

“The failure of the policy is that it is not linked to education expenses,” he said.

“The government paid this money as compensation for the carbon tax and dressed it up as education but it bears no relation to education.

“This government has a record of a shambolic handling of new government programs and spending commitments and this is just the latest example.”

The revelations come after The Sunday Telegraph revealed many parents have also been paid the $820 SchoolKids bonus despite not having children at school.

The Gillard government confirmed there was a loophole that did not require parents to offer proof of school attendance to get the cash.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie raised concerns earlier this year about the bonus, warning it would go to pokies and alcohol, like the government’s 2008 stimulus package payment.


Child support formula baffles 90% of parents – study

calculatorTHE child support scheme, which underwent a major reform in 2008, is so complex that only a handful of experts can understand the rules, a study shows.

Most of the 1 and a half million divorced and separated parents who pay or receive child support have no idea how the calculations are worked out, and most of those who claim to know the rules are wrong.

”The new scheme was intended to reflect the complexity of modern families, but it is so complicated that hardly anyone understands it,” said the lead investigator Bruce Smyth, an associate professor in demography and social research at the Australian National University.

As a result of this, it was unlikely many parents were using their children as pawns to extract the most financial gain from the system, despite widespread perceptions to the contrary, he said.

Professor Smyth will present the findings at the Australian Institute of Family Studies annual conference this week.

The study, involving thousands of separated and divorced parents, some followed for four years, is part of an evaluation of the reforms that changed the way child support liabilities were calculated and family tax benefits split. It suggests the Child Support Agency has not been able to keep parents well informed of how overnight stays with a non-resident parent can affect payments and family tax benefits.

The reforms were promoted as being fairer to mothers and fathers, encouraging more contact between children and non-resident parents, and reducing conflict between parents. But they were opposed by some women’s groups, who feared mothers would receive reduced child support and family tax benefits. As well, there were concerns fathers could insist on children having more overnight stays simply to reduce child support payments.

Under the new rules, instead of child support being based on a non-resident parent’s income, it was based on a calculation of what children cost. And instead of reductions in child support payments kicking in when children spent 30 per cent of the week with a non-resident parent they began at 14 per cent, or one overnight visit a week.

Professor Smyth said the evidence suggested those who bargained over overnight child stays to maximise financial gain were in a minority. But those who did so were likely to be acting out of misinformation and hearsay.

”Where judicial officers and mediators were once able to do a quick calculation of child support liability on the back of an envelope, they now need to enter information into the [agency’s] online child support/FTB estimator,” Professor Smyth said.

Few surveyed parents knew that one overnight stay would trigger a 24 per cent reduction in child support. Most did not know the connection between payment and stays, while others thought it took more or fewer nights. About 70 per cent did not understand the rules, less than one in 10 understood the rules correctly and 20 per cent claimed to know the rules but were wrong.

Professor Smyth said the evidence suggested those who bargained over overnight child stays to maximise financial gain were in a minority. But those who did so were likely to be acting out of misinformation and hearsay.

”There might be some dads who want their kids more nights but think they can’t afford it because they don’t know their child support liabilities will be lower,” he said. ”And there might be some mums resisting children’s extra nights with the father because they have the wrong information about how much money they might lose.”

Adele Horin


‘Dangerous’ NSW mum wins back stolen kids

munchausen-by-proxy-syndromeROBBED of her beloved kids and branded a “dangerous” mum, a NSW woman has spoken of her joy of being reunited with her daughter after nine years of separation.

For 19-years, the mother struggled to keep her family together as childcare authorities were hellbent on tearing them apart.

But her courage and conviction has finally won. The baby “stolen” from her 23 days after she entered the world in 2002 is safely by her side.

The youngster has spent her life in foster care after childcare authorities believed the mum suffered from the discredited condition known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy in 1993.

“I’ve been waiting 10 years to bring my baby home,” said the elated mum, who has requested not to be identified for the childrens’ sake. She was labelled with the condition, in which mothers harm and even kill their children to gain attention, after her second-born son failed to thrive. Her next two children were removed as well.

Community Services Minister Pru Goward told The Sunday Telegraph she was pleased the matter had been resolved, but has demanded an explanation from her department.

“This will help my understanding of the events which led to the removal of these children,” said Ms Goward, who made representations on the mother’s part when she was in opposition.

With three children removed between 1993 and 2002, the woman went on the run to give birth to a son in December 2003 to avoid detection. Authorities made the child a ward of the state in her absence and when she was tracked down in October 2008 in Moree, they removed the boy who was then four.

After an 18-month court battle, the boy was returned to his mother in April 2010 and has lived with her ever since.

The two older children are grown up and no longer wards of the state. Her nine-year-old daughter had expressed wishes to be returned to her real mother and after her foster carer relinquished care, the child was returned.

“She gets in bed with me in the morning and says: ‘I’m so happy’, it’s just beautiful’,’ the woman said.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy was coined by British paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow.

It was discredited in 2003 after Meadows’ evidence wrongly jailed three women for murder.