Monday, February 19, 2007

More on the Kangaroo Court and Child Support

Forget about Child Support
I believe one of the reasons my ex-partner wishes me to have minimal time with my son is simply as a punishment, an act of malice. I believe a further reason is that the more contact I have with my son, the less Child Support I am required to pay her. Worse, if we had Equal Residency, which I was seeking, my ex-partner may have to pay me Child Support (due to her higher income).

I do not wish to receive any Child Support from my ex-partner (unlike my ex-partner, who has complained I am not giving enough to her). I would like to sign a Parenting Agreement stating that if we had Equal Residency, neither of us would seek Child Support from the other. However, as my ex-partner knows, such a condition would not be recognised by the Family Court. So I have no way to guarantee my ex-partner that I would not claim Child Support (as she is currently doing), whereupon I would be able to remove one of the barriers to her agreeing to Equal Residency. This is another example of the counter–productive nature of Family Court policy.

Kangaroo Court
My ex-partner was advised by her solicitor as early as October 2002 that she would most likely gain 70% of the assets if she went to Court. She won 68% of the assets. After an immense amount of time was spent by both parties producing documents demonstrating financial contributions to the relationship and including, for example, supermarket dockets from four years prior, and unstamped bank deposit slips, and after simply ignoring much of that documentation and giving an unjustified discretionary ‘global assessment’ it seems that the final outcome was in fact a virtual foregone conclusion. It appears that this was a Kangaroo Court.

Given that the mother was working fulltime and was on call some evenings and weekends while the father was available to look after the child fulltime if necessary; given that the father already had sole custody of the child’s half-sister, and given that the Child Psychologist had presented a three stage plan of increased contact with the father (to six days and four nights a fortnight) on the basis of a positive Family Report, it seems as though the judge reluctantly conceded the Child Psychologist’s recommendations.

Had I not had these exceptional circumstances in my favour I feel sure the judge would have ordered the standard second weekend contact, plus the cynical three hours contact after school one day a week which judges now add in the face of mounting evidence of the damage to children from being alienated from a parent (and despite the evidence that children respond better to block contact, not fragmented contact).

How can you split a week ?
To my constant amazement, I was asked by Family Court officials on a number of occasions – how did I think Equal Residency could work since my son was too young to be away from a parent (read ‘mother’) for a whole week. And how can you divide a week in half ? (there being an odd number of days in a week).

Well couples do this all the time, the most obvious plan being that you alternate four days (father) and three days (mother), and then three days (father) and four (mother).

You are left with the feeling that the culture of the Family Court is unimaginative, devoid of lateral thinking, and with an inability to think outside the square.

Do you actually believe the Family Court amplifies conflict?
During the Final Hearing I argued that it would be better to have Final Orders that could give finality to the Family Court process rather than orders which would require us, the parents, to return to the Court two years later, because the adversarial Family Court process amplifies conflict, and we need to resolve conflict. Justice Carmody was unable to fathom this argument. “Do you mean to say that if two people come to the Family Court and there is no conflict between them then the court will create conflict ?” he asked. I responded “If two people come to the Family Court it usually means that there is already conflict between them. But the way the Family Court operates means that solicitors will search for ammunition, and that there will be more accusations and counter-accusations as a result”. It seemed he just could not comprehend what was blatantly obvious to me from my own experience of the Family Court system. It is structured in ways which amplify and generate conflict.

This obvious fact is extremely serious because one of the most important factors in a child’s life is some sort of reconciliation, forgiveness, cooperation and harmony between the separated parents to heal the huge rift of divided loyalties and love the child has for both parents. The dynamics of the Family Court system together with the Family Law Industry tend to amplify conflict and can produce resentment meaning there is never any sort of reconciliation between the parents leaving many children emotionally scarred for life.

The new Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) are an admission and recognition that the current adversarial system is fundamentally flawed. But the FRCs will not work because the Family Court’s quirky policies and gender-biased laws have not changed.

It has been said that men often have trouble letting go of issues after divorce, and they harbour resentment for years even to the point of obsession, unable to move on. My detailed account above could be interpreted in this light.

I therefore hasten to assure the reader that though I am extremely disappointed with the Family Court system and the Family Law industry, and though I have become a committed activist as a result of my experience (which I know is not nearly as unjust and outrageous as other cases I have come to learn about), I have indeed moved on. I am very happy with my life, and I have a relatively positive engagement with my ex-partner with regards to our son, (who thankfully has been protected from much of the pain of the separation and anguish of the Family Court process).

In the same way that any political activist must fight for justice and a more enlightened system - for years if not decades, I too must keep arguing my case along with thousands of other activists here in Australia. So please consider this before reducing and relegating my account to some negative male stereotype.


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