Date of Award

1-1-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Alfred Allan

Abstract

Although the importance of fathers' post divorce contact with their children has been linked with a better outcome for the children and is valued by society, studies in the United States and Australia have suggested that up to 30 percent of fathers do not maintain regular contact with their children post divorce. To date, the literature has focused mainly on demographic variables and some personal characteristics of the father. An area, which has been neglected, is the influence of fathers' perception of legal proceedings and rules on their contact with their children post divorce. This study aimed to explore the underlying concepts of satisfaction and examine fathers' perception of satisfaction in relation to their experience with the Family Court of Western Australia. This was done by utilising qualitative research methodology. Twenty·four fathers were interviewed using an interview schedule adapted from Tyler (1988). Results from the present study indicated that fathers' satisfaction was primarily influenced by a favourable outcome in relation to contact with their children. Factors found to result in dissatisfaction included fathers’ feelings that their father role had been eroded, a perceived bias by the family law system in favour of the mother, and a lack of legal assistance and limited availability of legal personnel. In order to clarify a number of issues, a subset often fathers from the original sample were re-interviewed. Further analysis confirmed that fathers' unresolved issues in relation to their separation; strong emotions including anger and distress during the court process; and unrealistic expectations in relation to contact with their children, made dissatisfaction with the legal system, and in particular court outcomes, more likely. This research suggests that early intervention for fathers is needed to allow them to address any unresolved issues surrounding their separation, and the emotions such as anger and grief that often follow separation. Services, which provide legal assistance and direction prior to entering and during legal proceedings, also appear to be necessary.

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