IS OUR family law system unfair to men?
Queensland family law expert Michael Kilmartin thinks it is, and he believes there should be an urgent re-think of a mindset weighted against men in family law proceedings.
Mr Kilmartin says many male clients voice the concern that they are always painted as the villain in divorce and parenting custody matters and women wanting to score easy points over their ex will cite violence or other intimidatory claims to win in court, with “the system” tending to side with them.
Mr Kilmartin, a family lawyer with Gold Coast and Sydney firm Adams Wilson Lawyers, said he expects to draw flak for his views but it’s time someone spoke up.
“This is not and should not be a male versus female thing, it’s not gender-bashing but the reality is despite an official equality, our family law system is very female-focussed and, frankly, unbalanced,” Mr Kilmartin said.
“I have had countless male clients say they feel they are unfairly painted as the bad guy in every step of the separation or shared parenting process. They certainly feel there’s a lack of balance in family law proceedings.
“From my perspective as a family lawyer I am very aware of a perceived attitude against men during divorce and custody negotiations which manifests in every step of the process, even in the Family Court.
“There’s an obsession with the “child attachment theory” which holds that children prefer to be with their mums as the primary carer and the courts tend to agree with this view.
“Half of the people in a heterosexual relationship undergoing a divorce/ separation process are men, yet our popular culture focuses only on the woman’s issues. We need to get back to a fair balance.
“Male clients feel they are regarded as the bad guy and someone who should pay for whatever caused the relationship to break down, no matter whose fault it may be.
“The mindset they encounter is across the board.
“Fathers of children aged under three find it very difficult to be awarded overnight care of their children even though many right-thinking couples do this in the best interests of the children.
“If the court has to make a decision on care of a child, the father is behind the eight ball from the outset. The court subscribes to the theory that the primary carer should be in the family home and that’s usually the mother.”
A generation of fathers victimised by a biased family law system were now embittered and resentful and above all, distrusting of the family law system.
“Sadly there are people willing to play the system to win against their ex partners and too often they are empowered in a gender bias way. I’m aware of numerous spurious claims of domestic violence against men because immediately the system presumes he is guilty,” he said.
“I am a strong advocate of defeating domestic violence and the need to protect women and children, but it annoys me when some women use it to play the system and push the anti-male stereotype,” he added.
Sometimes the allegations against men were driven by pure spite and other times for tactical reasons such as winning custody of a child and thus ensuring regular welfare benefits and child support.