'Reasonable fear of violence' unreasonable

In the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout recounts how her father explained, “… you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them”. In the politics of divorce and the government’s response, a masculine perspective drives reforms. These reflect a persistent attitude by a federal government that refuses to “walk in the shoes of victims of family violence”. Overwhelmingly, these are women and their children.

This is exposed in the new family law amendment by changes to the definition of family violence. It is proposed that the wording will be changed from the victim’s “fear” of violence to a “reasonable fear” of violence when considering evidence presented to the court.

The current climate in family court is fraught with disturbing cases where children have paid a gut-wrenching price when judges have overlooked or trivialised violence and abuse to mothers. The deaths of three brothers last September during a court ordered access visit, and the deaths of Jesse and Patrick Dalton at the hands of their father, placed in his care by the family court are forgotten, swept under the carpet and ignored. Instead, the government continues to bend to the pressure by father’s rights advocates.

Protecting children from parents

The adaptation of Jane’ Austen’s Mansfield Park (1999) by Patricia Rozema has some interesting commentary pertinent to the crux of this article. Mansfield Park is Austen’s tale of Fanny Price, who is basically given away to rich relatives by her poor family, an occurrence Rozema states happened quite frequently in those days. She says, “I think that people were somehow less connected to their biological origins back them”.

This would seem to indicate that people are somehow more connected to their biological origins these days or that poverty-forced parting of children is no longer as prevalent in western countries. Given the child abuse cases that have emerged recently, there is good evidence that it when it comes to parental rights, the biological connection is powerful.

Take for example, the recent child abuse case in Canberra. It is reported that the child protection authorities tried three years ago to remove the children, but the Court was not convinced by the evidence which was presented.

Fathers and bias in the Family Court

recent decision by the Family Court of Australia suggests that it is out of touch with general community standards and reveals that the law needs further amendments.

A father who was charged and convicted of downloading child pornography has been granted weekend overnight access to his two young daughters. He was previously found guilty in a criminal court of downloading internet material that by its nature is produced from the actual abuse of children. Furthermore, he was found guilty of “reproducing” child exploitation material.

The judge ordered that during the weekend overnight contact, he must have a friend present in the house and that the children’s bedroom door needs to be locked at night. In the comments section to the news article about this decision, comment number 69 asks, “What is it about the Family Court that keeps doing this? This is NOT the first time it has happened. Why is the court giving sex offenders access to children?”

Family Law Act: too little, too late

On Monday, March 26, 2006, Senator Santoro presented the Second Reading Speech (PDF 1.83MB) on the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill. These amendments introduced several key features into the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act). These included continuing priority of post separation contact, compulsory out-of-court processes before filing, the rolling out of the Family Relationship Centres and strengthening of the enforcement regime dealing with breaches of court orders.

However, these key features did not address the serious child protection concerns from the experts in family law and people trained in social and legal analysis. For example, the Family Law Council reported in 2002 that, “There is no greater problem in family law today than the problems of adequately addressing child protection concerns in proceedings under the Family Law Act. Since 2002, the amendments to the Family law Act have done little to address the “this serious [child protection] problem and gap in services.”

Mischief in the Family Law Act

On January 29 2009, an unimaginable act took place on the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne. Horrified motorists reported seeing a man throw a little girl from the bridge into the river below like a piece of unwanted garbage. The latest family law inquiry was generated by this crime because this little girl was killed by her own father after the Family Court made an order that led to the opportunity for him to commit this crime. This event revealed an unintended consequence or "mischief" in family law processes may be that a parent who is a risk to their children is not being adequately identified during family law processes.

The information generated by the inquiry into this event identified that a broadening of the definition of domestic or family violence in the Family Law Act is one way that a parent who is a risk to their child may be better recognised during the family law processes and this sort of event may be avoided. It has been well established that where domestic violence is extant in a family, it is a 'red flag' to the safety and well being of children. The amendments to the Family Law Act are now before the Senate Committee.

It has since emerged that the mother in this case tried to raise her fears about the safety of the children with the father at various points along the process, but it is apparent her fears were not heeded.

'My husband abused me for ten years - and HE won custody of our children'

'I was told by countless institutions that I wouldn't lose my children - but I did'.

A woman who suffered domestic abuse for over a decade before fleeing her home has said there needs to be 'more transparency' in family courts to protect victims of domestic violence.

Emma Swann*, 40, fled from her family home, with her two daughters aged 9 and 10, to Sleaford in February last year after suffering from emotional, financial and psychological abuse that lasted for 12 years.

Placing children with the parent that abused them: The problematic theory of parental alienation

An unproven–and mostly discredited–theory is encouraging family court judges to award custody–against children’s wishes–to the parent that has been accused of harming them. Moreover, this theory of “parental alienation” has “spawned a cottage industry of so-called family reunification camps that are making big profits from broken families.” That’s the message of a stunning report by the Center for Investigative Journalism aired on public radio’s Reveal program.

The Reveal broadcast focused on two custody cases in which the judge ordered children placed against their will with the parent that they claimed was abusive. In one case, the judge sent a teenage boy to juvenile detention because he was not making sufficient efforts to get along with his mother. He and his sister were then sent to live with their father and allowed no contact with their mother for a period of  three years. In the other case, a fourteen-year old girl who said her mother was emotionally abuse and wanted to live with her father was sent to a “reunification camp” for ten months at her parents’ expense. Her mother was given full custody and the teen was separated from her father father for four years.  The judges in both cases based their decisions on a theory called “parental alienation.”

How domestic abusers get custody in family court

How Good Mothers Lose their Children

Seven people are in court at the moment for spraying a three-year-old boy with acid as the father wanted to prove that the mother was unfit and unable to care for the child properly and he should have more time with the boy. This may seem very extreme—to hurt your own child to fabricate evidence against a woman to show how much you love the child. However, this is more the norm in Family Court than otherwise, with fathers doing anything they can to hurt the mother of their children.

How many children are court-ordered into unsupervised contact with an abusive parent after divorce?


According to a conservative estimate by experts at the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence (LC), more than 58,000 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States. This is over twice the yearly rate of new cases of childhood cancer. 

Experts at the LC consider the crisis in our family courts to constitute a public health crisis. Once placed with an abusive parent or forced to visit, children will continue to be exposed to parental violence and abuse until they reach 18. Thus, we estimate that half a million children will be affected in the US at any point of time. Many of these children will suffer physical and psychological damage which may take a lifetime to heal.

The high price mothers pay when filing for divorce

There is a very frightening reality these days for moms considering divorce. It’s a reality that numerous women assembled at the Monmouth County Superior Courthouse in New Jersey today are determined to raise awareness about, in hopes, of inciting change while calling the competency of judges such as Judge Paul Escandon in question.

Like Judge Paul Escandon, a number of judges are on the hot seat for being allegedly biased against mothers and ruling in the favor of fathers in divorce and custody proceedings. And whereas, in some cases, such rulings are warranted, in others, they are not.

The peaceful protest rallying together in Monmouth County Monday was doing so to protect “Abused Children Of Divorce and Separation.”  These moms are seeking to have courts dig deeper into cases and become more educated in determining divorce and custody rulings that meet the optimum needs of the children involved. The claim is that the manner in which Family Court handles these cases is not only archaic but in certain “high conflict” situations, the manner is barbaric. High conflict cases comprise many meanings, folks, including granting custody to documented abusers and pedophiles.

My child did exist

The price for a mothers own safety and freedom in 1996 was an imposed, unnatural and unwanted separation from my eight children, including my nursing infant. The injustice committed against her is not just the physical separation from her children, but the willful desecration of the mother-child relationship and bond, a sacred spiritual and emotional entity.

Many mothers who seek safety from abuse are routinely prohibited from having even the most basic contact with their own children, not because they were unfit parents, but because they were outspent, out represented, and out-maneuvered in a court atmosphere that seems to favor those who inflict domestic violence.

Scandal of 'unqualified' experts who advise our family courts: Decisions about the care of thousands of children routinely flawed

Life-changing decisions about the care of thousands of children are routinely being made on flawed evidence from poorly qualified ‘experts’ in the family courts, a damning study reveals.

More than a fifth of these vital reports are being produced by people who are completely unqualified, the Channel 4 News investigation found. ‘Experts’ used in hundreds of family court proceedings are frequently unqualified or unreliable, the study reveals.

In some cases, reports on parents or children are being given to courts by doctors who have not even seen the individuals concerned.