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    The New Zealand Justice Forum aims to pool the collective experiences of our citizens, lawyers, and academics in order to discuss the many defects that weaken the integrity of the legal system.
  • Fathers suffer under old Family Court rules

    Planned reforms to the Family Court need to focus on the right issues, argues men's rights advocate Craig Jackson.

    Powerful women's domestic violence lobby groups have already spoken out strongly about changes to the domestic violence legislation which are part and parcel of a number of other far-reaching changes to our Family Court. These include the intended repeal of clause 60, a repeal many would welcome as it is repugnant to natural justice.

    At present, the clause allows the female partner - most usually - on a "without notice" basis to apply for, and often be granted, a Domestic Protection Order without any evidence needing to be produced to demonstrate that the fears for her safety and for her children's safety are in fact true, particularly if psychological violence is alleged, the application is often accompanied by an application for an ex parte sole parenting order.

    This is also often granted on the assumption that this is in the best interests of the mother, which are equated with the best interests of the children and it is not uncommon for the mother and the children to relocate to another town, further sabotaging the father's case for a shared parenting arrangement.

    Not infrequently the mother may also allege that the father has molested or sexually abused his children, which can be seen as another powerful but rarely valid strategy to ensure that, with the support of the Family Court, she can retain the primary care of her children irrespective of her capabilities and qualities as a parent. For today's fathers who are much more involved in their children's upbringing, separation from his children will be more traumatic than fathers of previous generations, while some fathers may actually have a stronger emotional bond with their children than the mother.

    While the "sympathy" of the court more often goes to the solo mother with a physically, psychologically and now economically abusive ex-partner, studies of male suicide patterns show that men are eight or nine times more likely to commit suicide after a marital or relationship breakdown than at any other time in their lives.

    So shouldn't our sympathies be extended to both parties and to the children still caught up over the entire 32-year history of the Family Court in adversarial legal battles in which there should be no winners and no losers in this complex area of disintegrating family relationships?

    Another change likely to be resisted by the women's domestic violence groups is the replacement of the former "one size fits all" anger management and non-violence programmes.
    The new system to be run by the proposed Family Dispute Resolution Service will involve both parents along with - depending on their age and maturity - the children as parenting arrangements in the post- separation phase are negotiated. Fathers groups are likely to welcome this change.

    The Government rightly regards the true dynamics of domestic violence as an important issue and has instructed the Parliamentary Select Committee hearing submissions on the bill to focus on it.

    * Craig Jackson is a registered psychologist and long-standing advocate for fathers and families caught up in the Family Court.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Thane's Avatar
      Thane -
      While there will doubtless be examples of the kinds of cases cited, no-one really knows what is happening behind the veil of silence that cloaks the Family Court. We know how many cases go through the Family Court but that seems to be about all we know. Craig Jackson claims that women 'often' allege violence or abuse - how often? And how many times do fathers claim Parental Alienation as an excuse to cover up that abuse? How often do judges rule for a reversal of care? How often does one rich parent trot out a succession of 'experts' and child psychologists as they grind the other parent of the child they are supposed to love into financial and emotional oblivion? How long do cases take to be resolved when experts are involved? Is the average going up or down? Are there any trends with particular judges or courts? The fact is - we simply do not know. How can we fix the system if we do not even know the extent to which it is broken?
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