Predating invoices

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Yes, residence orders now favour fathers in almost 20 per cent of cases - up from 15.3 per cent in 1994-95.But in an extensive study of contested parenting cases from 1988 to May 2000, Lawrie Moloney, senior lecturer at Melbourne's La Trobe University, found that fathers tend to succeed only where the mother is judged inadequate - they win by "default" - not because of their own capacity as parents. And thousands of children still go to bed each night unable to say goodnight to their dad.";"In the photograph, the father is holding a tiny baby, a few weeks old, maybe less. Many of you have talked about the fact that when you do get access to your children, it is for three or four weeks at a time and yet you still have to pay child support to the mother even when you are providing for them. One of you said the comments were like the first rains after a long drought. Another talked about it being "music to the ears of myself and countless other victim fathers." Others mentioned the blockage of reform by the Labor Party and the Democrats who would be the first people to try to pretend to you that they are on side.Others of you mentioned Larry Anthony and I will be speaking to him. Another talked about trying to "stem the flood of male suicides" and a shiver went down my spine.The only cultural shift they know is fatherlessness, which David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, describes as "the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary social trend of our time".Says Popenoe in his book Life Without Father: "Father absence is a major force lying behind many of the attention-grabbing issues that dominate the news: crime and delinquency; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock teen births; deteriorating educational achievement; depression, substance abuse, and alienation among teenagers; and the growing number of women and children in poverty." There is something profoundly wrong when, in full knowledge of these costs, society does little to protect the love and intimacy between father and child.

Domestic violence is not the norm in family breakdown.

I didn't notice how much love was in that photo until I had a child.

More than one third of children who still see their dads never spend the night with him. It's the whole bedevilling, demanding, riveting and privileged experience of raising children.

The child's unconditional love is not payback enough; mothers deserve more, said Wolf. "It's Stalinist to designate one gender to be responsible for child-rearing," she says. Fatherhood is still grappling to find a voice, let alone a foothold, in the national conscience.

Too often fathers are optional extras in children's lives. A small upward blip in the percentage of fathers granted residence - formerly called custody - orders by the Family Court in the year 2000- 2001 was recently hailed by one academic as a "massive cultural shift in favour of fathers".

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