Share care at risk in family law overhaul

A presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility, was introduced by the Howard government in 2006, in response to intense lobbying from fathers’ groups.
A presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility, was introduced by the Howard government in 2006, in response to intense lobbying from fathers’ groups.

Howard government reforms that enshrined shared care for mothers and fathers after separation could be unwound and the best interests of children taken into account when dividing property between their parents, as part of a major review of the family law system.

Children could also be given more of a say during the resolution of family disputes, and a new system for handling small property claims introduced so that couples with minimal assets are not mired in costly litigation.

These are among the options for change canvassed in a 93-page issues paper that will be released by the Australian Law Reform Commission this morning, as part of the first comprehensive review of the family law system since the Family Law Act was introduced in 1976.


The ALRC has been asked by the Turnbull government to look at whether family law disputes could be resolved more quickly and cost-effectively, and whether the act should be modernised, given the increasingly diverse ways in which families are formed and greater awareness of the impact of violence and abuse.

However, the review risks reigniting bitter divisions ­be­tween women’s groups and ­fathers’ groups over whether changes that championed shared care for children in separated families should be scrapped.

A presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility, which does not apply in cases of violence or abuse, was introduced by the Howard government in 2006, in response to intense lobbying from fathers’ groups.

Courts are required to consider whether equal time with both parents is in the child’s best interest if an order for equal parental responsibility is made.

The issues paper, which invites comment on possible reform ­options, asks whether the presumption should be removed, citing concerns it has created confusion among parents, added complexity to litigation and contributed to an escalation of conflict in some cases where parents must make decisions jointly.

The ALRC issues paper also asks whether:

Alternative dispute resolution should become compulsory for financial disputes (at the ­moment it is only mandatory before most parenting matters can be filed in the family law courts);

The act should be updated so it applies to all children, regardless of their family structure, including children born via surrogacy and assisted conception processes, and Aboriginal children who may have care­givers from a wide network;

New non-adversarial models of resolving family law disputes should be introduced, especially in cases of violence;

Extended family members should take part in litigation involving parents with complex needs, such as mental health problems and alcohol abuse;

Changes are needed to give couples greater certainty when entering into binding financial agreements or pre-nuptial agreements; and

Mechanisms are needed to improve accountability, including to investigate complaints about judges and family consultants.

The ALRC will release a discussion paper in September that outlines its preliminary proposals for reform, with a final report due in March next year.

People have been invited to share their experiences of the family law system via an online portal on the ALRC website, which will close on May 7.


[Tell us your story about the Family Law system]

[ALRC Review of the Family Law System – Call for submissions]


The issues paper also questions whether changes are needed to ensure the family law system cannot be misused by individuals who try to instigate multiple court proceedings, make repeated notifications to child protection agencies or drag out litigation as a form of abuse.


Posted in Family Law, Family Separation, Fatherhood, Hot Topics, Legislation, Shared Parenting, Social Commentary, Studies | 1 Comment

Victorian school principals can now access medical records of parents and children

Children Legislation Amendment (Sharing of Information) Bill 2017 now legislation.$FILE/581377bi1.pdf
Subject: URGENT- Children Legislation Amendment (Sharing of Information) Bill

                                             -ATTENTION ALL PARENTS AND MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS-

 Please read carefully and send on the material above about legislation just past by the Victorian Parliament which will allow any  school principals and Education department officials to access confidential medical records in order to conduct “investigations” into any parent(s) and children they “suspect” of being involved in domestic violence.

School principals have no qualifications, much less training to conduct such assessments which are the role of specialist police officers alone. These are issues of criminal justice and law enforcement only, concerning potentially serious and volatile situations. It is no place for amateur interference or on the job learning when the outcome may be to escalate the potential for violence or false allegations.

This bill has passed and with the consent of the Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence despite her own admission that she has in fact never even read , much less considered the bill.

It will place all doctor/patient relationships for those most at peril at great risk and expose medical practitioners to potential legal repercussions.


A Bill for an Act to amend the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 to provide for specified entities to share information to promote the wellbeing and safety of children, to create a register of children born or resident in Victoria to improve child wellbeing and to monitor and support their participation in government-funded programs and services, to make consequential amendments to other acts and for other purposes.

To establish a Child Link Register of all children in Victoria

To enable sharing of confidential information in a timely manner

Posted in Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Hot Topics, Legislation | Leave a comment

The Boy Crisis – Warren Farrell and John Gray


The birthdate of The Boy Crisis is March 13 (aka “the publication date”).  But as of this morning, it was already number 1 on Amazon’s books for children’s studies.

A week ago I did a brief interview connecting the school shootings with fatherlessness. It is on track for 10 million views by end-of-day. On Wednesday, a considerably more entertaining interview was posted, connecting the shootings with both fatherlessness and guns – and outlining solutions. I’d recommend this even more.

Dr Warren Farrell










What is the boy crisis?

It’s a crisis of education. Worldwide, boys are 50 percent less likely than girls to meet basic proficiency in reading, math, and science.

It’s a crisis of mental health. ADHD is on the rise. And as boys become young men, their suicide rates go from equal to girls to six times that of young women.

It’s a crisis of fathering. Boys are growing up with less-involved fathers and are more likely to drop out of school, drink, do drugs, become delinquent, and end up in prison.

It’s a crisis of purpose. Boys’ old sense of purpose—being a warrior, a leader, or a sole breadwinner—are fading. Many bright boys are experiencing a “purpose void,” feeling alienated, withdrawn, and addicted to immediate gratification.

So, what is The Boy CrisisA comprehensive blueprint for what parents, teachers, and policymakers can do to help our sons become happier, healthier men, and fathers and leaders worthy of our respect.




Posted in Child Abuse, Fatherhood, Hot Topics, Social Commentary | Leave a comment

Whistleblower Magazine on Sexual Accusations – Stephen Baskerville

Stephen Baskerville has announced the publication of his new book, The New Politics of Sex, and let’s us know that a chapter of his book has been published in the January issue of Whistleblower magazine.

I have ordered both the article from the publisher and the book from Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading the Author’s views on this very topical subject. The claims of rape and sexual harassment have significantly increased since  #metoo exploded onto the scene. Unfortunately, there will , no doubt be a significant number of false allegations amongst the genuine.  A number of men have already been accused publicly of sexual harassment and  have been stood down or lost their jobs. Recovery from these accusations is difficult when media exposure is enough to declare a person guilty. Perhaps more men need to seriously consider court action for defamation if they have been falsely accused.  Sue Price, Men’s Rights Agency

Professor Baskerville’s email:

I recently realized that an excerpt from my new book, The New Politics of Sex — the chapter on “sexual harassment” — has been published in the January issue of Whistleblower magazine. The entire issue is devote to analyzing the current epidemic of sexual accusations, and editor David Kupelian takes a refreshingly complex approach to it. Most conservative Christian groups and publications do not know how to approach the current spate of sexual accusations, so they end up with an incoherent and unconvincing blend of jumping on the radical feminist bandwagon, combined with deploring, condemning, and wagging self-righteous fingers (mostly at the men). This is why conservatives and Christians have largely been left out of the public conversation on a matter that at one time was so firmly within their purview as sexual morality — of all topics, one where conservative Christians should have a foremost place at the table. This issue of Whistleblower is quite different. Kupelian is himself a sophisticated writer and open to exploring the deeper politics behind all this (though I confess that I have not yet read all the contributions). This is what we need more of to create the broad coalition uniting all the various targets of the sexual revolutionaries: men, fathers, heterosexuals, religious believers, secular conservatives, moderate liberals.

As long as left radicals are permitted to create the problems they then claim to be solving (school shootings being another example, where the clear connection with single-parent homes is studiously ignored), their slow coup d’etat will continue.

This magazine is not online. You can get the single issue for $7.50 or an electronic issue for $3.99 at this link.

My own take on the Harvey Weinstein affair (and similar debacles) was recently published by Crisis magazine.

The theme of “sexual harassment” is more fully treated in my recent book. In the book and the Whistleblower excerpt, I draw upon (among others) Daphne Patai’s book of 20 years ago, Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism, the best treatment of sexual harassment, where she predicted much of the current turmoil. Yet amid all the hysteria, I have seen little mention of her book. It is sad, with all the media academics on offer, that we forget the work of good scholars, who could supply us with the larger context, pertinent facts, and tested arguments to deflate this dishonest hysteria.

Stephen Baskerville, PhD
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College


©2018 Stephen Baskerville | Stephen Baskerville

Posted in False Allegations, Hot Topics, Men's Issues, Social Commentary | Leave a comment

Family Court lawyers urged to mediate and dodge ’horrendous delays’

Lawyers in NSW are being urged to make more effort to see family law disputes resolved by mediation amid “horrendous delays” in family law courts.

NSW Law Society president Doug Humphreys said the organisation was “campaigning hard for the appointment of more judges to ease the significant delays and backlog of cases” in family law courts.

“Regrettably, the problem is so great that even if more judges were appointed, there could still be unacceptable delays for many families already in the system,” he said in a message sent on Monday to the state’s 32,000 lawyers.

He urged solicitors to achieve better outcomes by encouraging their clients to use alternate dispute resolution, including the Family Law Settlement Service, a joint initiative of the courts, bar association and law society to give parties access to expert ­mediators.

His message comes after Federal Court judge Robert Benjamin criticised the “obscenely high legal costs” charged by family lawyers and an apparent “win at all costs, concede little or ­nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole” approach to litigation.

Attorney-General Christian Porter also recently told The Australian that three-year delays were “not a good outcome for any family”, but sometimes litigants and their lawyers were to blame for cases dragging on for so long.

Mr Humphreys told The Australian that, as officers of the court, solicitors had a duty to “explore all avenues”, including mediation, rather than just blindly following their clients’ instructions to continue litigating.

He said the benefits of medi­ation for clients were undoubted, and helped them “avoid the hefty costs, uncertainty and delays of prolonged court action”.

“These sort of initiatives need to be understood as the profession … trying to solve matters quickly, efficiently, cheaply and for the benefit of the parties.”

Reader comments on this site are moderated before publication to promote lively and civil debate. We encourage your comments but submitting one does not guarantee publication. We publish hundreds of comments daily, and if a comment is rejected it is likely because it does not meet with our comment guidelines, which you can read here. No correspondence will be entered into if a comment is declined.

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Perhaps if the courts were more inclined to make adverse costs orders against parties who willfully disobey directions and take unreasonable positions then it might make settlements more likely.


They do mediate. Most cases are settled. But there is always the couple who will never settle and require a judicial decision. Believe me when I say that we make more money in settling cases than in going to trial, but we must follow instructions regardless of the advice we give.

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If your client, after being properly advised, instructs you to keep litigating then you do so, or tell the client you can no longer act for her, with all that entails.

Posted in Family Law, Hot Topics | Leave a comment

Mum on run loses custody

A MUM who tried to take her two children out of Australia on falsely obtained passports, then hid them from their father, can now only see her kids once a month for two hours.

The mother forged her estranged husband’s signature on the children’s passport applications, but her plan to take them overseas fell apart because of an airport alert.

A recovery order for the children had been issued just weeks earlier, the Family Court in Brisbane heard.

When stopped by a Customs Officer in Sydney, as they were about to board an overseas flight on October 3, 2014 the children ran off.

The mother, her daughter and son then fled in a taxi.

Despite being hidden from authorities , the children participated in a Victorian music competition a month later.

The mother travelled with them in a caravan through several states, homeschooling them, until she was arrested by police in NSW in July 2015.

The father did not recognise his children because their hair had been dyed.

They had not attended school for years and their mother had taken them out of the distance education system.

Brisbane Family Court Justice Jenny Hogan has now ordered the children, 17 and 14 this year, to live with their father, with only limited contact with their mother.

This is despite the two children expressing fears about living with their father.

A few months after they were found, the daughter ran away from her father’s home.

The daughter said she did not want to be the “next Luke Batty”, referring to the Victorian boy killed by his father.

The judge said the way the mother fuelled the children’s anxiety about their father was “emotional abuse of the most serious kind”.

“The evidence before me does not provide a basis for a conclusion that there was ever a risk the father would kill the children,” Justice Hogan said.

She also rejected claims he had been cruel to the children.

Justice Hogan took 15 months to deliver the complex judgement, after a four-day hearing, which the mother only attended for one day.

Posted in Family Law, Hot Topics, Parental Alienation | Leave a comment

Jordan Peterson interview fallout: It’s little wonder men don’t know where they stand

Jordan Peterson faces BBC interviewer Cathy Newman.
Jordan Peterson faces BBC interviewer Cathy Newman.

Possibly you have never heard of Jordan B. Peterson, but don’t worry, soon you will. He has written a book and he is coming to Australia in March to promote it, and if you’re missing Christopher Hitchens, you’re going to love him.

Peterson is a professor of psychology, previously at Harvard, now at the University of Toronto. He is 54, he has a gentle manner and — I hope it’s still OK to say this — he is easy on the eye.

Peterson’s latest book, his second, is called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, but books aren’t why he’s getting attention. Peterson is famous for what he says on his YouTube channel, particularly about the role of men in modern society. He says men in the West are suffering a crisis of masculinity because they are encouraged from birth by an apologetic culture to believe that traditionally masculine qualities — strength, aggression, self-reliance — are negative and destructive, while feminine qualities — willingness to co-operate, for example — are the way forward for the human race.

This, he says, is so stupid “it’s hard to know where to begin”. Forcing men to become more agreeable, less competitive, will be the death of them, and all of us.

That’s not all he says. Peterson touches every button: he thinks social justice warriors are mostly faking it, and he can’t abide virtue-signallers. He thinks intellectuals are mainly arrogant.

Jordan B. Peterson kept his cool. The same could not be said about his female interviewer.
Jordan B. Peterson kept his cool. The same could not be said about his female interviewer.

He is not fond of humanities courses. He blames left-wing academics for the mumbo-jumbo that infects public life. He can’t see the point of women’s studies, and he believes that universities are obsessed not with “intelligent conversation … instead, we are having an ideological conversation”.

He’s also Christian. He takes seriously the idea that God made the rules and that human beings are programmed to feel wretched when they break them.

There is hunger for his message. Peterson’s YouTube channel has 600,000 subscribers. As of last week, he had 10 of the top 10 higher education podcasts on iTunes. He makes $40,000 a month from the crowdsourcing website Patreon and reckons his audience is 90 per cent male.

The left is naturally furious with him, which brings us to the interview he did last week, as part of his book tour, with Cathy Newman on Britain’s Channel 4.

Again, it’s hard to do it justice because it was long, but in short, she totally lost her cool while he cheerfully kept his. She needled him, hectored and ridiculed him, but worse: she twisted what he said. Here is a sample: Newman kept going on about how the gender pay gap is unfair, and Peterson said he didn’t disagree, but said there were reasons beyond the patriarchy — the personal choice of some women, especially mothers, for example, to seek low-paid, less taxing jobs — that explain why some women earn less than men.

“But you’re saying basically it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top,” Newman said.

“No, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it,” he said.

“But why should women put up with those reasons?”

“I’m not saying that they should put up with it.”

On it went, spawning many memes in its wake, including one where he says: “I had bacon and eggs for breakfast” and she replies: “So what you’re saying is, kill all vegans.”

The topic then turned to free speech. Peterson had previously said he doesn’t want to use made-up words like “ze” instead of “he” because, as a citizen of a democracy, he won’t be told what pronouns he can or can’t use, especially not if he thinks they’re stupid.

Newman wanted to know how his “right to free speech” trumped a transgender person’s right not to be offended.

“Because,” Peterson explained, “in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. You’re exercising your freedom of speech to risk offending me (in this interview) and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.”

It’s been called the “gotcha” moment. Newman could barely speak for her own confusion in the face of Peterson’s reasonableness, but the world being what it is today, the story has now been recast to one in which she was merely doing her job as a fearless, probing journalist who has since been targeted by his army of online trolls to the point where she now needs personal security, and that’s what happens when a woman stands up for herself.

But that isn’t what happened.

She did a really poor interview, which is a shame because it meant people didn’t get to hear what Peterson says in his book.

I can help with that. It’s aimed at young men. He encourages them to free themselves, as quickly as possible, of the burdens of their childhood, to accept the failings of their parents, who probably did their best, and take control of their lives, because when you’re carrying a burden or living a lie, you’re suppressing who you really are, and so much of what you could be will never be forced to come forward.

Everyone’s favourite line has to do with how life is going to kill you, so you might as well go do the most magnificent thing you can think of.

Why any of this should be controversial is beyond me, but Peterson has faced the usual revolt: campaigns to stop him speaking publicly; campaigns to stop him getting university funding, and so on. And here’s something truly bizarre: the same week that his book came out to howls of outrage, pretty much every English-language newspaper in the world published at least a summary of a cruel account by an anonymous woman of a private sexual encounter she didn’t enjoy with US comedian Aziz Ansari.

In case you missed it, she met Aziz at a party and made a beeline for him. He took her number. She had a text message from him before she even made it home. They flirted on the phone for a week. He asked her out for dinner and paid for the meal. He asked her back to his apartment. She agreed to go upstairs, where so-called “bad sex” happened.

He popped her up on the kitchen bench and took her knickers off. He gave her oral sex, and she reciprocated. They moved around a bit — to the couch, then over to the big mirror — and played around a bit more, but she wasn’t up for sex. He put on an episode of Seinfeld, poured some wine, eventually called a car to take her home. He texted her the next day to say how much he enjoyed her company and she replied angrily, saying she’d felt pressured. He apologised.

It’s hard to know for certain, but from her vicious description it seems like she didn’t want to be his one-night stand, she wanted to be his girlfriend; and she seems to believe that her hurt feelings justify his public shaming. They don’t. What she has done is revenge porn — in words, not pictures. It is an unforgivable breach of trust to share private, intimate moments, especially under circumstances in which she gets to stay anonymous, and which for him must be excruciating.

She’s OK to do that, but our visiting professor is not OK to say that men could do with a little manning up? No wonder so many are hankering for his world and not hers.

Posted in Hot Topics, Men's Issues, Social Commentary | Leave a comment

Men are also victims of home violence

HERE’S some good news that passed unnoticed late last year — our official statistics reveal that for the past decade there’s been no increase in women being abused by their partners. That was the story that dropped through the cracks when the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced the results of its 2016 Personal Safety Survey last November.



Most media failed to report that fact, highlighting instead the few areas where violence against women still shows some slight increase — like sexual harassment and abuse.

Somehow it also went unnoticed that the big news in the latest survey results was all about men. The Bureau’s figures reveal that since 2005 the proportion of men reporting violence in the last year from their current partners has risen more than fivefold while those experiencing emotional abuse have more than doubled.

The amount of men reporting violence from their current partners is increasing.

These results emerged despite efforts to encourage more female victims to disclose by using only female interviewers to conduct the latest survey — a move which required Gillian Triggs at the Human Rights Commission to give the nod to this discriminatory move. But surprisingly it ended up revealing the true extent of women’s violence against men.

No one really knows whether more men are being abused or whether men are now more willing to admit to being victims but, as my latest YouTube video shows, women’s role in family violence is emerging more clearly.

Every third victim of intimate partner violence is a male. Almost half the people being emotionally abused by their partners are male. The biggest leap in sexual harassment over the past five years involves men being harassed by women.

The complexities of family violence revealed in these latest statistics fall in line with more than 40 years of international research showing domestic violence isn’t just about dangerous men terrorising their families.

More than 1700 peer reviewed papers show that children growing up in violent homes usually witness their parents having a go at one another rather than dad being the villain.

Men’s strength means violence against their partners is more likely to have serious consequences.

Of course it’s undeniable that men’s strength means violence against their partners is more likely to have serious consequences. It’s shocking that a woman is killed through domestic homicide almost every week in this country and it is critical we make every effort to protect women in those circumstances.

But the latest homicide figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology show that domestic homicide results in one man being killed every 10 days. Women are more likely to use weapons in domestic abuse, hence their violence can also be lethal but few of the 75 males killed in the most recent domestic homicide incidents (2012-2014) attracted the media attention given to female victims.

Naturally police know all about dangerous women. Listen to this member of the Victorian police force who is trying to protect her granddaughter from a violent mother: “Everyone in the job will tell you they see plenty of violent women in the homes we’re called out to; drug addicts, angry drunks, women with mental problems. Kids hiding not just from dads but from vicious mums. Yet often cops will take the woman’s side without question and ignore male victims.”

That’s policy in Australia as we see when politicians talk publicly about domestic violence. Domestic violence is simply about “respect for women” Malcolm Turnbull intones as he boasts of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a one-sided approach to the problem.

Men and boys are being demonised when the issue is much more complex. Picture: file photo

The federal government has recently been re-running that TV campaign showing a boy slamming a door in a girl’s face, advertising which demonises men and boys and denies the complex issues underpinning the problem: poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and children witnessing violence from both parents.

Thousands of bureaucrats are employed to defend the one-eyed policy on this issue. Mention the inconvenient truth revealed in the latest Safety Survey results and they’ll deny that the survey represents the true picture on domestic violence in this country. They’ll offer statistics showing growing numbers of police reports and deny these figures are artificially inflated by women obtaining AVOs to gain strategic advantage in family court battles, as publicly acknowledged by retiring judge David Collier from the Parramatta Family Court. Plus police reports now reflect the ever-expanding definition of domestic violence including threats of abuse and “economic” violence.


Yes, the Personal Safety Survey provides the “most comprehensive data on prevalence of violence” in this country, a squirming bureaucrat told David Leyonhjelm last year in a senate committee. The bureaucrats being questioned by Senator Leyonhjelm have failed to produce any proper evidence that fighting domestic violence is all about “respect for women”.

With official data now there to prove them wrong perhaps it’s time to seriously lobby for help for all victims, including support for men and their children seeking to escape women’s violence.

Bettina Arndt is a social commentator and YouTube vlogger.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Hot Topics, Men's Issues, Violent Women | Leave a comment

Corrine Barraclough: Fathers’ Christmas trauma

CONGRATULATIONS one and all: we have failed this year at tackling the broken family law system. Loving fathers, good men, won’t be opening presents with their kids around the twinkling Christmas tree, through no fault of their own. They won’t be eating yummy treats, watching movies, singing carols or playing fun games together. And their kids miss out on creating those memories too.

This is the real stolen generation, our gift to each other.

And it could happen to any parent after a bitter breakup. This is the Kris Kringle of everyday separation. What you get comes down to luck — or lack of. Who knows?

Driving yesterday I heard an ad on the radio, which if I wasn’t writing this column may have passed me by. “Contact us … before your partner does,” the grotesque family law call to action said. What is this: a race for the house, assets and kids? Even a Family Court judge this week slammed the bitter, aggressive, mercenary culture. The Child Support Agency, too, has sweated buckets under scrutiny as 2017 ticked along.

Anyone with any experience knows the legal system is stacked in women’s favour thanks to gender-biased family violence initiatives, which plant the seed of malice in society’s war against men. It is gendered domestic violence policy that starts this carousel of spite-sp inning.

The power play of false allegations by a mother of children leaves men drowning in pain. The legal system will predominantly support a woman’s word regardless of any evidence.

A meme circulating on social media says: “The Gillard 24.6.10 coup and her immediate DV legislation reforms introduced October 2010 was the goose that laid the litigation golden egg. An act of treason against the Australian people.”

Imagine a Christmas where the closest you’ll get to your children is “liking” that meme, just to connect briefly with others who und erstand the nightmare you are trapped in.

Picture a Christmas where you quietly wrap a small gift and place it on a shelf with the others you’ve collected since your children were taken, before quietly closing the door and forcing yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Multiple surveys show how difficult Christmas can be for people ­estranged from family members.

In an online support group this week one person wrote, “We lost another good dad this week. I won’t name him here and I won’t point fingers, but I am tired of being quiet about this issue. I have met way too many people lately that are grieving the loss of their living children, for no good reason, other than the fact the other parent can’t or won’t co-operate.”

“Grieving t he loss of their living children.” Sit with those words for a moment. How heartbreaking that echo.

“I will buy my kids presents, as I do every Christmas and birthday. I will wrap them and put them in the cupboard. I am not allowed to send them gifts. One day I hope to be able to watch their little faces as they open them,” says one alienated father. He will go through the motions for the third Christmas without the feel-good highlights of the festive season.

CORRINE BARRACLOUGH: The secret grief of abortion

CORRINE BARRACLOUGH: Child support: Stop bullying dads. It’s not fair.

Alienated fathers are barely breathing in every state across Australia. These are men you see silently shrouded in inexorable grief.

Thi s is a tough time of year. There is a luminous benchmark of how ­society sees Christmas that puts ­pressure on most of us.

Multiple surveys show how difficult Christmas can be for people ­estranged from family members.

Loneliness, isolation, sadness and despair wrap themselves like withering tinsel around TV ads of happy families raising glasses around the dinner table with warm, fuzzy faces.

For all those whizzing around in a whirlwind shopping for presents, food and last-minute decorations, spare a thought for the fathers who this year just wish they could see thei r kids.

We can’t wave a magic wand and fix this biased, broken legal system and create gender equality under the law. Politicians are too busy gorging on prawns and quaffing Moet.

But we can all play a part in trying to help alienated fathers reach the other side of this emotional, haunting holiday season. To every single one of you: when you’ve closed the door to that cupboard, leaving a present wrapped inside one more time, know our hearts and thoughts are with you.

Posted in Family Law, Fatherhood, Hot Topics, Parental Alienation, Social Commentary | Leave a comment

Family law court costs obscenely high, judge Robert Benjamin says


A Family Court judge has attacked the “obscenely high legal costs” charged by family lawyers and an apparent “win at all costs, concede little or nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole” approach to litigation.

Family Court judge Robert Benjamin has referred two lawyers to the legal services watchdog over their “outrageous” and “eye watering” fees, which totalled $860,000 for a couple who were battling over property, parenting arrangements for their two children and child support.

In a judgment released by the court today, Justice Benjamin said he had become “increasingly concerned about the high levels of costs charged by the legal profession in property and parenting proceedings” and had expressed concern in previous judgments, which had gone “unheeded”.

“In the Sydney Registry of the Family Court I have observed what seems to be a culture of bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive family law litigation,” he said.

“Whether this win at all costs, concede little or nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole and hang the consequences approach to family law litigation is a reflection of a Sydney-based culture by some or many litigants or whether it is an approach by some legal practitioners or a combination of both, I do not know.

“Whichever is the cause, the consequences of obscenely high legal costs are destructive of the emotional, social and financial wellbeing of the parties and their children. It must stop.”

The mother’s legal bills totalled about $353,000, while the father’s legal costs totalled about $506,000.

Justice Benjamin said the amounts were, “on their face, outrageous levels of costs for ordinary people involved in family law proceedings”.

He criticised the solicitors for forwarding “inflammatory” and “verbose” letters from their clients, saying lawyers should ensure correspondence was “necessary, balanced, considered and relevant”.

“Solicitors are not employed to act as ‘postman’ to vent the anger and vitriol of their clients,” he said.

Lawyers had a duty to minimise costs and reduce conflict, but all family law judges had seen cases in which the parties’ financial circumstances had been “emasculated or wholly lost” because of their legal bills.

“These are outrageous and often unnecessary outcomes,” he said.

In this case, the legal bills had taken a “terrible toll” on the wealth of the parents and their ability to support and provide for their children.

The judge has referred the lawyers to the Legal Services Commissioner to see whether their bills could constitute professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct — which could result in disciplinary action.

Posted in Family Law, Hot Topics | Leave a comment