[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”FC Violence Review MRA reply2 revised”]Family Courts’ Violence Review : – Review of legislation, practice and procedures relating to family violence in the Family Courts
In 2006 substantial changes were made to family law legislation with the introduction of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006.
The Act provided for a presumption that parents would be declared suitable to participate jointly in the major decisions in their children’s lives, which was basically a reworking of the previously described “special issues” consideration, which in turn was a derivation of the prior ‘guardianship’ provisions, but without the attached notion of parental rights remaining,  just duties and responsibilities.
Following on from this finding of parental suitability, the Act orders that judges MUST consider shared parenting time etc or if not practical or suitable, then substantial contact, with the overriding proviso that all decisions made should consider the best interest of the child.
Equal shared parental responsibility can be rebutted if the court is satisfied the conflict between the parents is too intense and unlikely to diminish or if there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that a person has engaged in child abuse or family violence.
At the time when the Bill was introduced this Agency objected to the elevation of the domestic violence issue into the principles and objectives of the Act, particularly as we considered the issue was adequately addressed in other parts of the Act and other
State based legislation. One of our barristers was so concerned by the inclusion, he remarked “that this is the Family Law Act, not a manifesto for a women’s domestic violence service”.
 Undoubtedly, the particular focus on family violence has led to a situation where even publications such as the Australian Master Family Law Guide[1] (2008 p282) discusses the issue purely from the perspective of the Act disadvantaging a woman leaving a violent relationship, where she and/or children have been abused as if it never occurs that a man may be the carer of the children and they may be the people at risk of violence and abuse perpetrated by the mother.
Furthermore, the same text questions the difficulties a women might experience in leaving a violent relationship if she is then regarded as being “unwilling to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent”, S60CC(3)(c)[2].
The bias displayed by this prestigious guide in failing to recognize that men and their children can be victims of a mother’s abuse or even abuse at the hands of her boyfriend or other family/friends whom she enlists to support her cause is surprising and should be subjected to widespread condemnation.
 No doubt the “elevation of domestic violence” within the Act occurred as a result of heavy lobbying from women’s groups, who tend to advise their members to apply for an easily gained domestic violence order and/or to make false allegations of child abuse to give them an advantage before the Family Courts.
The portrayal that women are the only victims of interpersonal or family violence is incorrect and the longer this falsehood is allowed to be used as the determining factor guiding the Federal/State governments’ response to reducing violence within families, the more likely it is their proposals will fail. Providing solutions to “deal with” only one half of the problem has never been a successful strategy and is likely to exacerbate the very problem it seeks to resolve. The abuser, if undetected become more powerful, perhaps resulting in serious harm or death of their victim and the abused, if not recognised, will become more submissive until perhaps they can no longer live with the abuse, take their own life or retaliate with such force the unintended consequence is the death of the abuser. The battered wife syndrome could be said to apply equally well to battered husbands, but our society has convinced itself that women can be excused their violence if they claim to be a victim of abuse – no such allowance is made for men who are abused.
Similarly, if this inquiry should continue under an invalid assumption that only women are victims of men’s abuse and children’s only risk is from their fathers, then the outcome will be to put children at greater risk as they are placed with mothers who may be skilled in hiding the child abuse they commit and/or ignore the signs of abuse committed by thei live-in boyfriend/defacto/step partner preferring to cherish their adult relationship above the protection of their child.
It is not our intention to deny any violence committed by biological fathers, but sadly as is known, mothers are more likely to neglect, assault and kill their children than biological fathers. The children are also at considerable risk from mother’s boyfriends, defactos, step fathers, siblings or other relatives.
This Agency is suggesting  a balanced  approach should prevail and we should not be contemplating changes to the Family law legislation based on the sad death of one little girl or the presumption that only women and children are in need of protection.
Of course, women and children should be protected from violence and abuse BUT so should men and children!

[1] CCH Australia Ltd., 2008 Australian Master Family Law Guide,2nd Edition, CCH Australia
[2] Family Law Act 1975