Since that notion is wholly subjective, an undefinable rule with no standards or accountability, in practice it rests on the personal whim or bias of the family court. Many argue there could have been a societal bias that led fathers to give up custody, rather than bias by the courts since most fathers give up custody without the intervention of the courts. Besides, I knew that this system was actually biased against fathers, not mothers. as we must remove any bias from the minds of judges, we must also allow them But there is a pyramid of harm. Being a father trying to use the system, it would be very easy for me to say that the system is heavily biased against fathers. Getting caught up in the family court system can be one of the most daunting experiences in a man’s life. ‘It’s like you go to abuse school’: how domestic violence always follows the same script, ‘Yes, many fathers have a terrible time in the family law system. My son turns four soon. I do not even lift an eyebrow when a 2-year-old boy, who comes home from unsupervised visitation with his dad, has a diaper filled with his own rectal blood and that same child is later turned over to his father on a full-time basis. Nothing has left me more shocked – or more disturbed – than seeing the harm done to victims by the family law system. But that With it, parental roles and the court’s opinion on parental roles have changed. Not even at a fact finding hearing. In both directions. First and foremost, we need to make this a system that is safe for children. We write urgently to ask you to object to the President of the family court, Sir Andrew McFarlane, and Jacky Tiotto, the CEO of CAFCASS (created to protect children), endorsing Families Need Fathers, a misogynist fathers’ organisation, by speaking at their national conference on Saturday 21 November. “It became very violent,” Lucy told me, “and if I wouldn’t comply, it was brought up that I wasn’t allowed to speak about it [by the court], so maybe I should just shut up and let it happen, and no one would believe me anyway”. The anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty even told me that were it not for the family law system, she would hardly have any victims contacting her. Stop family court collusion with misogynist fathers’ lobby. If he doesn’t want to see his mother then it’s obvious the abusive perpetrator has caused it. I am just waiting for the day that I won’t be allowed to see him again. But the obvious problem with suggesting that there is Maybe there is She says that judicial assumptions that children reluctant to have contact have been brainwashed by the non-resident parent seem to be on the rise. But there was a catch: if a parent alleged abuse, they could be labelled a “hostile parent”, unwilling to support shared parenting. There is no help for men dealing with a difficult female. Thankfully I’m a wife beating, lager drinking helicopter mechanic, so that problem falls on the professionals that are respected to make those decisions and not stupid people like me obviously. The justice also found the father had been intimidating during the marriage, and “manipulative and disingenuous” in his evidence. If you would like any advice on a family law issue, you can find further articles here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. I stress. “I will never forget the first time we had to drop her back to him. here last Friday. How does this attitude influence the outcome of a custody dispute? On the 11th of March, for example, a letter from Jane Fortin, Emeritus professor of law at the University of Sussex, was published. The mother of our child has been granted legal aid and all the other support that comes with being a victim of domestic abuse, all with no evidence. Are remote family courts really horribly cruel? Tina wanted to keep fighting, but with this strong report against her, she was terrified that she would lose Lucy altogether, so she consented to one overnight stay per week. Jess Hill is an investigative reporter who is the author of the book on domestic violence See What You Made Me Do. Under the current Family Law Act, judges are to prioritise the protection of children “from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence”. disproportionately male judiciary is more likely to rule against abused women Whether it’s on their own, with the help of a mediator, or after consulting with the extended family, more than 9 out of 10 moms who end up with custody of their child do so with no judge involved. “I stayed in that marriage to supervise him with my son.”. Fathers who can afford high priced representation will often come out better in court. "Yes there is bias, prejudice and discrimination in family court towards men. So under Australian law, there should not be a family court bias against Fathers in Australia. In 2006, despite this noted tilt against women, and after three years of what then-legal associate Waleed Aly described as “an incessant and often intimidatory campaign by father’s rights groups”, the Howard government introduced new reforms to the Family Law Act. Trust me. When presented with an individual that is allegedly a horrible person, we are all far too eager to feel like a hero and chastise the alleged perpetrator. This is the evidence. There’s simply not enough cake to share and nobody is going to be happy when we wreck families. Fathers’ rights groups across the country do not have a laundry list of specific things they want, but they are advocating for the more general position of equal treatment in the family courts. In his judgment, Justice Robert Benjamin of the Hobart family court accepted that the father had demonstrated “inappropriate” affection towards his daughter. At the same time, other than finally meeting a solicitor that for once isn’t treating me as an abuser by default, nobody is even willing to listen to my side of the story. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers. The people that will decide a small child’s future will have forgotten the case by the time that child is an adult. However, she warns that increased judicial willingness to contemplate transferring children’s residence from “alienating mothers” to their fathers’ risks overlooking abuse by fathers and transferring the child into the care of the abuser himself. When I first started hearing these stories I didn’t believe they were part of a pattern. Given the capacity for errors in human judgment, of course, there may be fathers who have heartbreakingly had access to their children unjustly restricted. The punishment for hostile parents could be extreme: they not only ran the risk of losing custody of their children, they could be blocked from seeing or even speaking to them for months. As a result, women have to think carefully about bringing abuse allegations to court – even where they may be evidence – in case they get accused of making false claims and lose custody as a result.”, “…putting these decisions in the hands of an unaccountable and disproportionately male judiciary, untrained in domestic abuse, some of whom seem to have no problem slipping their social biases into the courtroom, is bound to cause problems. In 2001, a joint study by the family court and the University of Sydney found that the family law system had “tilted more and more against women, either by accident or design”. The way you look and present yourself seems to be the strongest part of any persons case in family court. But Court-Determined Custody Arrangements Are Still Strongly Anti-Father A Statehouse bill would take a step in that direction. Undoubtedly there are mothers who get a raw deal, 5% in custody contests. in the letters column of the 9th of March. (This is what I mean when I say fathers are biased against themselves.) getting it right in every case is obviously an impossibility. To ensure we are the right fit, we need to make you aware that we cannot offer Legal aid. This was a study on family reports – one of the most important pieces of evidence in a family law hearing – written by psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists, assessing the family dynamic and, commonly, evaluating allegations of abuse. In my personal experience there is definitely a bias but I don’t think it’s gender based. This is to be a higher priority than the “benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents”. Lucy thinks that’s because she was old enough for people to believe her. favour of one side of the debate there is another opinion in favour of the They were, on the face of it, reasonable – judges should apply a presumption of shared parental responsibility unless violence or abuse was an issue. There is no excuse for an innocent man being deprived access to his children. It’s a can of worms that should have never been opened until we can “judge” more effectively. Everyone knows someone who’s had a shitty time in the family law system. The reverse is true. Sadly there is far too much information available to the general public and professionals about personality disorders. Take this case, for example, from 2010. bias, maybe there isn’t. Grant Bowen is campaigning for Family Law reform. The lack of transparency about how these decisions are made has allowed a dangerous narrative to prevail: that the system is biased against fathers. circuit judge His Honour Glenn Brasse leaping to the defence of the judiciary, The legal climate is subject to change. It’s nothing more than the obvious. First of all, apologies if you feel that the title of this post is somewhat flippant. When asked why, she referred them back to what she’d told the police, but became “extremely distressed” when pressed to elaborate. We make those judgements based on gut, experience and what we can see in front of us. And I can tell you that for every opinion in A couple of years ago a barrister, now a magistrate, told me she stayed in her controlling and abusive marriage for 10 years after she first wanted to leave. Are family courts biased? “Whilst it’s true that mothers were usually the primary care giver in contact applications, this was simply a reflection of the social reality that women are more likely to take on the role after a relationship breakdown,” author Dr Maebh Harding said. is that it runs the risk of pushing judges over the other side of that rope. Let me give you my example. She concludes: “A child at the receiving end of such an order might justifiably feel completely betrayed by the court system.”. Fathers who are deprived of their parental rights, by the family court system, must defend their rights on issues such as child custody, child support, and accusations of domestic violence. There isn’t much doubt family law is biased against men - unless you want to discount the voices of 100,000s of fathers here and around the world. Legal practitioners openly stated that they knew which family report writers to go to if they were representing a perpetrator. For five years, Lucy had to spend one night a week with her father. An inquiry deputy-chaired by Pauline Hanson – who seems driven by a personal need for vengeance on behalf of her son – is almost certainly not going to achieve the changes children so urgently need. There is no presumption or a priori rule that even gross misbehaviour such as child sexual abuse ... puts up an insurmountable barrier in the way of having contact with a child victim.”. As humans we judge. A bias, against mothers who claim abuse, exists in Family Courts in several particular countries around the world; countries where parental alienation has become a ‘thing’. Children with divorced or separated parents are suffering in a “broken” family court system which has a bias towards women, according to local father Grant Bowen. the freedom to deal with cases without any preconceptions. Some liken the changing notions of justice to the swinging of a pendulum. However, despite these problems most of you have failed because you didn't take the time to learn how the system works." In 2007, Rae Kaspiew (now at the Australian Institute of Family Studies) found there were very limited circumstances in which a mother could challenge ongoing paternal involvement, “except in cases where the evidence of severe violence was clear-cut”. She repeatedly pleaded with child-protection workers not to repeat what she’d said to her father. The vast majority of it being about men. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800-RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. Mothers and children get approached with unfounded suspicion, and children are suffering the cruel consequences. In 2001, a joint study by the family court and the University of Sydney found that the family law system had “tilted more and more against women, either by accident or design”. But then I started reading their court documents and the research. The law requires the court to prioritise ‘the need … public pe rception of bias against fathers by the Family Court. Some names have been changed in this piece. In 2012, after three research studies found that victims of abuse were not being protected in the family law system, then-attorney general Nicola Roxon announced another set of reforms to the Family Law Act – essentially, attempting to undo the harm done by the Howard reforms. Just 3 per cent of fathers who go before the Family Court are refused access to their children, casting doubt on One Nation senator Pauline Hanson's claims that mothers are using the court to deny their ex-partners time with their kids. Anyone that has had their child taken from them will be irrational and not themselves. Legal aid is available to any woman who has evidence of physical or sexual abuse. Many fathers we have represented can personally attest to experiencing a negative outcome in a custody dispute because of gender bias in the court system. Take a father out of a child’s life and the child is damaged, all but invariably. Whether we like it or not. I do understand that this is a serious topic and that many people have very strong feelings upon it. Nothing to do with gender. I’ve spent almost five years investigating domestic abuse in Australia. This led to retired That is something that will never change until we treat everyone with the same level of respect and not jump to conclusions that effect our children dramatically. In 1925, family courts evaluating cases of separation were guided by the Tender Years doctrine, which observed that kids under the age of 13 were more likely to be psychologically dependent on their mother for care. As far as both genders complaining post court proceeding. That is not the courts. The main issue for separated dads is that the rules that shape family life in the UK are unfair and unequal and any system of law based on those rules can only ever be biased against men. But it’s ok. You don’t need to respect abusers or have any empathy for them because an opinion has already been formed that they are obviously not a very nice person and therefore “probably”…….. Custody and Power . This is especially true if you and the child’s mother were never married. We remain open for business during the COVID-19 outbreak. More chilling, however, were findings Jeffries (and others) published in the UNSW Law Journal that same year. Additionally, men are awarded less support on average than mothers who are awarded support. other side. Sadly we are now in a situation where people that are distraught, depressed, obviously emotional and even sometimes suicidal, are being judged as having a personality disorder. I believed then, like 43% of Australians, that vindictive mothers routinely lobbed abuse allegations at their ex-husbands to stop them seeing their children. The fine article confines itself to revealing the frank bias of family court judges, but I’d like to add a bit of content: judicial bias against fathers is also judicial bias against mothers and children. In 2016, in the peer-reviewed legal journal, Laws, Griffith University criminologist Samantha Jeffries wrote that in family court judgments, domestic violence was “ignored or minimised, reconstructed as inconsequential” or passed off as mutual violence, where both parents are equally at fault. The simple and short answer is yes, there is a perceived bias against fathers but i do not feel it is a bias held only by the courts, It extends far beyond that and I hope to be able to go someway to proving that to you albeit with anecdotal evidence. In fact, perceived bias against men in family courts has, in large part, provided the so-called “Men’s Rights Movement” with momentum. You can find the original Guardian article here, and the letters to which I have referred here and here. As I explained on Friday, one of her particular concerns relates to what she called “the junk science of “parental alienation syndrome”, which she suggests is being too readily accepted by courts as a fact, when raised by fathers in response to abuse allegations by mothers. Mothers were seen as the primary caregivers and were often given custody, especially for children age seven and younger. The better the actor you are, the better the outcome. Prominent doctors have confided in me their horror at what they see happening to their patients in the system – especially to the children. The “parental alienation syndrome” to which she refers may or may not exist as a phenomenon, but it is, sadly, true that some mothers turn their children unfairly against their fathers, just as often as is the converse.”. it would be easy to conclude from that that the ‘truth’ lies in the middle: But there is a pyramid of harm.’. Said one: “When I worked in private practice we would look for report writers who don’t do that level of investigation, who don’t report on the violence because that was in our client’s [the perpetrator’s] interest.”. Well that’s obvious. What is no-fault divorce - and should you wait for a no-fault divorce in the UK? The remaining bias in family court is related to money. The suggestion was contained in an opinion piece by deputy opinion writer Sonia Sodha, which appeared in the paper on the 5th of March. Family law and it’s myriad apologists have a Pontius Pilate approach which is depressingly successful, the WRITTEN law is gender neutral, the law in practice is systemically BIASED against fathers. Yes, many fathers have a terrible time in the family law system. She was the recipient of three of the 2015 Our Watch Walkley awards, including the Gold award for reporting on violence against women. And whether or not the almost universal anti-father bias in our public institutions in child support, child protection and legal aid is producing the best outcomes. Whether that be a man abusing women or a woman abusing children, no matter the abuser, the judgement and subsequent actions are always the same. The anomaly is that while the accuser may have legal aid representation, the accused, usually a man, does not.”, “Sodha refers to a “disproportionately male” judiciary, but that was certainly not the case in the central family court, where I sat. The speaker continued by explaining why men lose in family court. Despite all this, the justice ordered that the daughters spend alternate weekends and half the school holidays with their father. Until the statistics tell us that more than 4 percent of divorced fathers are seeking custody through the Family Court system, there are few men who have such experience and proof of … I’ll never forget sitting across from Lucy, an 18-year-old who, aged eight, had the courage to tell her school counsellor she was being sexually molested by her father. I have put much thought into this debate as many have who work within the family law circuit and those of us men and women who have been mistreated and incorrectly judged. But Parental Alienation most certainly does exist. They’re afraid their children will be at greater risk if they leave than if they stay. highlighted in my weekly review post the recent discussion in the letters section of The Guardian newspaper regarding the suggestion that “the I felt physically sick, watching how distressed she was. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian. SRA ref 469401. When her mother, Tina, applied to stop contact, a family report writer dismissed Lucy’s allegations, described Tina as “psychotic” and wrote in his report to the court that if the allegations should be raised again, Lucy should be ordered to live full-time with her father. It boils down to whether it’s all a facade or not. what is, as I say, a serious topic, which can have extremely serious consequences. Statistically, it appears that the family courts in the United States are biased against fathers. Being a father trying to use the system, it would be very easy for me to say that the system is heavily biased against fathers. Also the lord chief justice for family courts is a lead supported of father for justice, so any bias that may exist is certainly not in the favour of women. John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. Lucy’s father suddenly relinquished custody when she was 13. Historically, men have seen themselves as the primary breadwinners while viewing mothers more as the caretakers of children and the home. From our experience working with families, we have realized family court can be biased towards mothers and against fathers in custody disputes. That’s human beings. However, society has changed. A 2015 study by the University of Warwick concluded that family courts do not discriminate against the father. In his report, former family court judge Richard Chisholm called this trap “the victim’s dilemma”, a position later articulated by former attorney general Robert McClelland: “Do I report family violence to the court and risk losing my children, or should I stay silent?”, This change in attitude was made explicit in a 2007 judgment from Justice Tim Carmody (who was, for a brief and controversial period, Queensland’s chief justice). According to Slate, bias against fathers when it came to child custody was quite common in the past. seen, it’s a desperately thin tightrope that the courts must negotiate, and If my son says he does not want to visit his father then no court will force it. Yes the family court system is broken and needs reform. Of course, There is no excuse for an innocent man being deprived access to his children. She says: “There is evidence of an increasing willingness in recent case law to transfer the residency of children from “alienating” mothers to their fathers. 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