I applaud The Australian for publishing the articles “Court Out” and “Trial Separation” on Christmas Eve. For too long the media have been silent about the difficulties faced by litigants, especially fathers, in the Family Court of Australia.
I must however, dispel a myth that is in danger of becoming accepted as fact and is referred to in today’s editorial “Families need new ways of ending strife” (27/12).
Your editorial has relied on a claim that because only 5 per cent of Family Court cases are decided by a judge, then it follows 95 per cent are happy with the outcome of their separation agreements.
That is not the case. The system is so long winded and the entrenched maternal preference so apparent, many men are forced to accept agreements that offer little contact to their children or little in the way of fairness.
Despite wishing to proceed, many withdraw when they run out of money, especially when there is a seemingly endless supply of Legal Aid funding for the other side. Often cases don’t get beyond the first step – a Legal Aid mediation conference when pressure to agree is immense – often under threat to remove funding or threat that “you’ll pay all the costs” (yours and the other party) for any future litigation. Some counsellors are adept at convincing fathers that more harm than good will result from them wishing to spend time with their children, when faced with a mother who is determined to deny contact.
The final sell-out often comes from the least expected quarter – the father’s solicitor. After many weeks of negotiation, letter writing, document preparation – his advice maybe “this is as good as it gets, so sign the consent orders” (i.e. an offer of every second weekend contact with the children), or “do not proceed to court seeking residency – you have no chance of success”.
I doubt the 95 per cent have ever been asked if they signed the agreements willingly. Perhaps it is time to ask those searching questions. A Royal Commission into the Family Court would be welcomed, for they have, for too long, remained in hiding behind their cloak of secrecy.
Sue Price Men’s Rights Agency Waterford , Qld