This paper analyses the changing fortunes of the father in disputes over child custody in Australian family law during the twentieth century. It follows the radical shifts from 'father right to maternal preference and finally to the child's best interest. Most history is written by winners, or from their perspective. Some would argue the frequent failure of men to win custody of their children in disputes after marital breakdown effectively silenced them and contributed to the myth of the absent father in Australian families. In fact, men were often vocal and politically active in the history of family law, some trying to claw back reforms to patriarchal laws and some resisting feminist initiatives to ensure working fathers paid child support. This paper argues the historical losers may have earned the last laugh, or the latest laugh, as family law drifts towards 'shared parenting'.
Trajectories of Law in History: the Future Behind Us: the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society 2005 Conference.  ANZLH E-Journal (Auckland, New Zealand 10-12 July, 2005) p. 1-26