Family Courts give kids Fatherless Christmas


Sir – Tens of thousands of Australian children are being harmed, and many will spend this Christmas without one of their parents and other family members, as a direct result of our harmful, adversarial family court system.
This is one of the conclusions of the new “Children in Crisis” report just released by the Family Law Reform Coalition and backed by independent Senator for Victoria, John Madigan, who says too many families are being harmed by the current system.
Recent announcements reveal that Australia’s family courts are themselves in crisis: head of Australia’s Family Court, Chief Justice Bryant, who said on her 2004 appointment that “her top aim is to win public respect for the court”, recently took the unusual step of going public with her plea for an extra $17m.
The solution, though, is not to give our family courts more money. All that will do is ensure that our children are traumatised for perhaps 1½ years instead of two or three.
Many children will still be left in abusive environments for extended periods, and many more will still be wrongly forced to lose the genuine connection with a loving parent, often with half of their entire family, that’s so important to their well-being.
The current system is unsustainable; its financial, and human, costs are unacceptable. We need a new system, such as a national Family Commission, that’s not adversarial and that provides quick, affordable solutions for the majority of families – with a proper Court to back that up swiftly where there is genuine abuse or domestic violence or a failure to abide by its rulings.
Tragically for so many children, similar recommendations were made in a major government report back in 2003, but they’ve been ignored by successive governments.
New studies since then have consistently shown the critical importance of children being able to maintain proper relationships with both of their parents after separation in the vast majority of families.
Our family courts are supposed to be looking after ‘the best interests’ of children. But instead they’re leaving, in their wake, a trail of children and parents whose lives have been ruined; a litany of bankruptcies and suicides; and thousands of children who will not be sharing Christmas this year with a parent who loves them.
Dr David Curl (pictured)
Spokesman for the Family Law Reform Coalition
Alice Springs


  1. Our courts have for too long been ruled and controlled by lawyers.
    I believe personally that judges should be voted into their positions.
    They should be people of good stead, who understand balance, morality and community good.
    The family courts have had some good judges who have tried and failed to change the way they operate.
    And our current systems all fail the children.
    When I went to my first law class at uni I was told if you believe that truth, justice and morality exist in law leave now because they do not. Law is about the best argument.
    There are some who do not adhere to that and fight for justice, morality and truth. But they are very low in number. Money drives everything they do.
    Parents who can no longer live under one roof together should not be allowed to manipulate the system to get back at the other parent and if found to use children to inflict emotional harm on the other parent should be charged with child abuse.
    Simple – everyone should stop using children as pawns in a game. They are their to be Loved and nurtured.

  2. I feel that parents who take a child away from the other parent are so cruel.
    I’ve seen a lot of dads breaking their hearts because of lies and allegations against them in court, none of these proven.
    It’s a mockery and a sickening thing to think lawyers and judges, ICLs and report writers don’t give a damn about who they are hurting.
    This family law system has to change, it’s so wrong and corrupt.

  3. Courts need to wake up and take proper control of caring about children.
    The best interests of the children need to be enforced. Children are missing out on a loving father and grandparents and family that have so much to offer them.
    Too many women are holding children hostage and making them lose contact from family members that would love to hug them, spoil them with Love, build memories with them, teach them and show them just how much we care.
    Shared parenting for the well being of the children, gives them both parents and a larger family to help nurture them to grow into well adjusted adults.
    With the failing present system, traumatised, unhappy, abused children have no hope of growing into emotionally healthy adults, all that is happening is judges, lawyers, CSA, etc are all becoming more financial fat cats at the expense of the innocent.
    People in power, PLEASE do your job and make changes to rectify these atrocities that have gone on way too long.
    Save the children.

  4. And in some cases motherless Christmases. Let’s not be all one-eyed here. There are plenty of broken families out there in which the father is utterly selfish and thoroughly contemptible.

  5. Yes, Hal. In many cases, it’s motherless, grandmotherless and grandfatherless Christmases too. Sometimes even without their brothers and sisters. The letter talks of children spending this Christmas “without one of their parents” – either the mother, or the father – “and other family members”; it’s a gender-neutral, child-focussed statement.
    The latest research shows that children who experience major childhood trauma – such as an adversarial family separation in a family court, or the loss of contact with a loving parent – have significantly higher, lifelong risks of both physical and mental illness, and are at higher risk of self-harm and suicide.
    As it happens, the stats show that Australian courts deny children access to loving fathers significantly more often than to loving mothers.
    But if the courts prevent even just one child from being with a fit and loving mother or father, if the courts cause just one child to attempt suicide (as many do in such circumstances), that’s one too many.

  6. @ David Curl, Posted December 21, 2015 at 2:25 am: I agree with everything you say, especially after just having seen at close hand a 10 year old boy being put through an horrendous experience.
    That he was damaged is beyond debate, but hopefully not permanently.
    It doesn’t surprise me that the courts’ stats show in favour of mothers. It is also true that there are significantly more women’s shelters than men’s.

  7. Anyone who thinks that the problem with the Family Court is that they are denying fit mothers access to children is drunk on Kool Aid.
    Naturally all fit parents should have reasonable access to their children but let’s be honest about the problem.
    The current adversarial system is the result of constant lobbying from special interest groups whose only concern is the interests of the mother.
    We need to remove ideological training from universities and ideology from the Family Court system so that decisions can be made fairly and without prejudice.

  8. Given that mothers are more than seven times more likely to be the object of serious violence, injury and homicide by their partners, John Rew (Posted December 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm), it is not at all surprising that there would be “constant lobbying from special interest groups whose only concern is the interests of the mother.”
    We have a big problem of male silence about male violence, and in many cases, tacit encouragement of certain aspects of it.
    Many of us are brought up in, and live with, a culture of male violence, and sexism.
    When more men start to question the sexist and violent attitudes of other men, wherever these attitudes exist, and to do something effective about preventing other men’s everyday violence, abuse and prejudice towards women, and when men who use violence generally change their behaviour, then you might expect to see more sympathy for men who feel that they are being treated unfairly by the Family Court.
    We all have to live with this reality, and do something about it. Complaining about the alleged unfairness of the Family Court and women’s advocates is NOT the best place to start this process.

  9. @ Bob Durnan: He is parroting the usual lies, I see.
    As to the courts, they are hog-tied by the rule of precedent. To ensure that everyone is treated with the same injustice and callousness, it’s important that when a judge makes a mistake, every other judge continue to perpetuate it.
    Only way to fix it is to lop the whole system off at the stump and start again. Some sort of blanket ruling covering all of these dodgy precedents and every decision citing them.

  10. @ Paul Murray. Courts are not “hog-tied” by the rules of precedent. The doctrine of precedent serves us well in most cases and can be departed from when necessary. How do you think the tort of negligence was developed in the UK, then introduced into Australia? The wheels of justice might seem to grind slowly but it is better than having a system without precedent, where every case is a raffle.
    “Only way to fix it is to lop the whole system off at the stump and start again. Some sort of blanket ruling covering all of these dodgy precedents and every decision citing them,” you say.
    This is exactly what we have with the DoP … a higher court makes a ruling to correct an injustice, and that ruling that becomes binding on all lower courts faced with cases with similar circumstances to prevent that injustice being perpetuated.
    That is your “blanket ruling”. Made either in the Court of Appeal or the High Court. Some pretty smart cookies there. And can be overridden by Parliament if you can convince the pollies the judges need guidance.
    Of course the parties to the dispute are not the best judges of justice and injustice, lots of motes in eyes. Which is why they went to litigation in the first place. Family law the most vexed area of our courts system for obvious reasons.

  11. I do acknowledge and support comments by Bob Durnan, posted December 21, 2015 at 10:41 pm, and Ian Sharp, posted December 23, 2015 at 9:09 pm.
    Lack of understanding, sometimes clear ignorance, of the law remains a large problem when people need appear in court for legal issues to be resolved.
    Difficulty obtaining legal assistance remains a problem.
    Lack of education in schools another problem.
    The best education sometimes finds it hard to change minds set in concrete which reject alternative views.
    Reading judgments often presents intricate reasoned arguments set out by Magistrates and Judges to avoid following precedents.
    All judgments may be appealed, appeals process examining earlier reasons for decision, then rejecting or supporting.
    Changes, sometimes significant changes, to our law may flow from any judgment.
    Well known is the research showing adults or children who experience major trauma, family disruptions, segregation, the loss of contact with loving relations, reduced opportunities for education and employment, all show significantly higher, lifelong risks both physical and mental illness, with higher risks of self-harm and suicide.
    Legislation remains a blunt instrument, the courts do their best to fine tune each use of the legislation.
    Questions certainly need be asked as to why those in positions of power maintain such environments which cause these problems.
    Rhetoric presented is not reasoned argument, even the raising of questions does not mean they will be answered.
    Into third decade of my family’s segregation, government remains obstructive towards resolution of the judicial issues, issues all parties acknowledged in need of judicial resolution.
    Justice delayed is justice denied.
    Often unfortunately those in powerful political positions feel discouraged from supporting changes to rectify long standing atrocious behaviors.
    Particularly when they believe their position is first to defend aged departmental views.
    Everyone is to blame when inappropriate behavior continues, there is need for the wider public to demand issues and potential changes be widely discussed, to find consensus for change.
    It are the powerful who fear open, public, discussions of issues.
    The media can only reflect concerns from community, is up to public to raise and discuss the issues.

  12. Janet Brown: Yes, money drives everything most lawyers do and going to court can be enormously expensive.
    Up to $500 an hour inc GST for a non specialist lawyer in Alice Springs, for example.
    That is not a misprint.
    And legal procedures are very time consuming.
    Our civil legal system is only for the wealthy and very often used by the wealthy against the ordinary citizen who cannot afford representation.
    Injured by your doctor or physiotherapist etc?
    The medical insurance company won’t pay you, they will say “see you in court”.
    Then they will deep pocket you with a barrister.
    Have a problem with overcharging and want to claim against your solicitor?
    Forget the Law Society.
    Lawyers regulate themselves.
    The Law Society will say “get another lawyer to sue the first one”.
    Our legal system has lost its way, destroyed by greed.


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