Family Law Reform Coalition – Press Release for 01.02.2016 “Australia’s Family Courts on Trial.” A must read for everyone!!
I received a phone call this morning from a young woman who asked me to check my email. She had sent me a copy of Family Law Reform Coalition press release. I was impressed because in her little corner of her world, where much of life passes her by on a regular basis, she was awake enough to care about what is on her plate. She is not likely ever going to be anyone that the world will know, but with each event in her life, she is waking up, paying attention and engaging. I admire her for that.
An overhaul of Family Court is due in most countries. The only people who do not understand the need for this, are those who have never had to use it.
Family court, unlike any of the other courts, makes allowance for people’s emotions during a difficult time, which is the only excuse I come up for as to why they do not enforce the basic rules and codes of conduct that are upheld in the other courts. The most blatant of which is the amount of lying that goes on. People lie in their affidavits. They lie to the court ordered psychologists and psychiatrists. They lie in their testimony. They lie for themselves. They lie for their families and friends. And those lies are often proven during the course of the case that is being decided, and NOTHING is done about it.
By nothing, I mean I have never heard anyone being charged with perjury, despite the same wording being on everything people sign regarding swearing that you are telling the truth and it being a criminal offense to lie.
The problem with this is that it leads to people lying to the Police, to Social Services, and to Maintenance. In some instances it is even teaching the children involved how to lie and that our courts do not deserve respect. Making you swear to tell the whole truth doesn’t actually mean the “true truth.” Based on these lies people’s lives are ruined, their wages are being garnisheed and charges and judgments are placed against them.
When someone is falsely accused of a crime in any other court, they stand a chance of appealing, of eventually proving their innocence and of getting their name cleared. Parents who are victims of the malice of their ex-partner in family court get no such chance. In these instances their name is never cleared, the other parent is never held accountable, and the child’s relationship is never regained.
Losing that relationship with one of their parents is not the only impact on the child. As this article points out, children who are victims of family court are at a “higher lifetime risk for both mental and physical illness, as well as self-harm and suicide.”
We also have to consider the cost to us as a society. Children raised in this kind of a dysfunctional environment are going to cost the rest of us. We will have to increase the types of care available for their mental and physical deficits, as well as bear the brunt of their struggles. These children’s only role models are often abusive parents who have systematically taught the child to lie and to live a life focused on hate and revenge. Do you want that child, as an adult, as your child’s teacher? Your doctor? Your next door neighbour? The parent of one of the children your child likes to spend most of their time with?
I agree that the family courts often consists of people who are not qualified to make these important decisions. Lawyers seem to care more about the social pecking order with one another and the judges than they do representing their client. Just as no-one in Junior High challenged the cool kids on their reign of terror over the rest of the students, neither do the lawyers seem to be willing to take on the key players in family court. “Guilt” and “innocence” seems to be decided by a group consensus among the judge and lawyers, led by those same key players, than on anything having to do with a search for the facts.
I have watched lawyers laughing about their clients with one another in what appears to be more of a grouping of “them” against the parties in the case as opposed to any allegiance to the person they are representing. The lawyers decide what is to be done and agree to have their clients comply instead of taking instruction from the client. If a client has questions or concerns and does not want to sign, there is no effort made to understand the concerns and address them, instead added pressure is put on to intimidate the the client into agreeing.
How many times have I heard a lawyer put off their client and say they will talk about it during the week, just sign this, only to have them put off any meeting during the next week and then tell the client, “it’s too late now, if that was an issue, you should have brought it up at court.” There is no recourse for a client once the lawyers have decided because even to report it or appeal a court order will only result in someone saying that it should have been brought up at court. THAT fault always comes back on the client even though they are usually powerless to say anything in the courtroom. The lawyers do all the talking.
Lawyers do not confess that they were the ones who instructed their clients to do something when it comes to being called on an action. They leave the client out to hang, knowing that the anger of an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) or the judge could mean the loss of their child for their client. Clients can try repeatedly to get hold of their lawyers or to ask questions, without success.
Much of the family court movement is circular. Take for example the involvement of Social Services and the Police in a situation where a mother reports concern that their child may be at risk due to drug parties taking place at their ex-partners. Phone calls to Social Service may be met with “you need to call the police if you think there is something illegal taking place.” Going to the police may be met with “This is a matter for Social Services to deal with.” Then in court when the mother is being questioned about her abilities she makes known her concern. The judge asks why she did not report it to the Police or Social Services, and she tells him her experience. The Judge refuses to believe her and labels her either a liar or a bad mother in that she did nothing to save her child from supposed harm.
Yet other times stories based on hearsay, with no proof whatsoever, are accepted as fact without any hearing on the accusations.
The system is manipulated to allow one partner to have every advantage and other to be completely destroyed. No-one even checks whether the financial claims are truthful and far too often the staff handling the financial part of family courts immediately jump to the “go to” position of siding with the woman and labelling the man a “deadbeat.” Surely it should at least be investigated?
A ruling made in family court is often unenforceable in any real way. Unless the other party can afford to take them back to court, custodial parents can pretty much do as they want. Unless the judge has included a clause stating the police should intervene if they are not followed, the police will not get involved. Consider how effective a court order is that one parent hand over the child’s belongings, without issuing an accompanying order that the police must attend the exchange. The parent can go and be abused and have a difficult incident to deal with or forget it. Even with the police order the parent can hand over what they want to – no-one is going to assure that the child gets all of their things.
“Dad where is my brand new bike that mom bought me last week for my birthday?”
“Don’t know, where did you leave it?”
“Beside the garage, in the back yard.”
“Hmm, it’s not there, must have got stolen. You will have to file a police report. Should have put it in the garage like I told you.”
No-one is going to enforce anything in this instance and neither will the police show up when you call that the children were not delivered for a court ordered visit. The police will tell you to take it back to court. The custodial parent only has to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why the children did not come. By the time it gets before a judge, weeks or months or even years will have gone by. By then the child will be a secure prisoner of the custodial parent, and Parental Alienation Syndrome is well in place. The child can repeat for the court the words they have been taught. “I hate John/Betty (insert the name of the other parent which they now refer to them as instead of mom or dad) and I never want to see them again. They abused me.”
Throw the abuse card and you will be facing a whole battery of court ordered testing that will span the years ahead. No-one pays any attention to how the child also suddenly happens to hate ALL of the other parents family and will not speak to any of them. That doesn’t raise any flag at all, as to the validity of the sudden emotions.
If you are using legal aid, they will not provide a lawyer once the family court rules. You are stuck with their findings. Unless you can afford to pay a big time lawyer, one out of the pool of regulars in the family court, to prove your ex-partner is lying and your children are at risk, forget it. You are done. Your life is over – at least as far as having kids that you expected to raise, is concerned.
And while we are on legal aid … how about the lawyer they provide who is unable to string two words together, who no-one takes seriously, and who has no idea what to do? Sure, you can complain and ask for a new lawyer. Good luck. Why was someone like this even allowed to take a case in the first place?
In all of this, the lying, the failing to follow the court orders, ask how many people ever are jailed for perjury or contempt? The only ones going to jail for contempt or breaching the orders will be the ones who were supposed to pay support. Family Court cares about money. Money is their means to punish and reward … the parents involved. When the parent ordered to pay support feels the need to bring some items to the courts attention, they are not supported. They don’t get their day in court to prove what they have been trying to tell Maintenance for ages – that the other partner lied/hid money/is getting Government Assistance even though their parents are paying for everything, you are paying for everything, and they cleared the back accounts and took everything when they left . . . nope …. they just get arrested one day for trying to drive to work to earn money to pay their ex-partner, on a suspended license that Maintenance Enforcement took away from them.
How does that make sense to anyone? Take away their drivers license so they can’t hold a job to earn money to support their child? Wouldn’t it make more sense to fix the loop holes that allow the truly dead beat dads to hide their money in their new girlfriend’s account, or bury it in a company or even overseas?
How many court cases have you seen solved with, “well the child has been living with this parent now for 4 years (the time it has taken for the case to come to trial) and we are loathe to move her. This is her home as she knows it and while there may not be any real objection to the other parent, we are not going to rock the boat at this point.” Yup that is brilliant, and one that definitely took into consideration all the important things for the child.
Is “staying in the home they are used to” as important as not having any relationship with one of their parents?
There has to be accountability. There has to be follow up. The support groups have to also be included in this – Family Counselors and Mediators, clergy, Police, Social Services, Maintenance Enforcement . . . as well as the lawyers and judges. There has to be a comprehensive programme that considers all of their roles and spells it out. And most of all . . . my endless mantra on this discussion . . . . the “Monday morning quarterback discussion,” where the cases are looked at, the rulings examined, and efficacy noted. These people have to own their problems and the failures, be willing to learn from them, and to improve their work.
I want to hear from the kids who went through the court system. Maybe we all should hear from them. What worked and what didn’t? What has the cost to their lives been?
Our families are everything and we do not solve the problems of the world by hobbling their efforts or even by taking over the work that is done for our children in their family units. We have to empower and support families to do their jobs and parents, to finish the roles they took on when they brought their children into this world. If they are failing at it then we need to help them, not push them to the side, or enable the ulterior motives of the one partner fixed on revenge. It is just too damn important. We are that important.