Twelve years ago, a review of Australia’s Family Law system produced the report “Every Picture Tells A Story”. The 240-page document made 29 recommendations and concluded that the family law court touches the lives of almost every Australian at one time or another.
But now, 12 years later, Family Court practitioners — lawyers, psychologists, social workers and police — along with thousands of Australian parents agree on one thing — the system is broken.
Independent Victorian Senator John Madigan says: “It is under-resourced, legislatively imbalanced and causing irreparable and unnecessary harm to Australian families already on the brink. The system is ill-equipped to manage and respond effectively when one partner — as frequently happens — is clearly suffering issues related to mental health.”
He adds that allegations about violence, alcohol use and drug use can be made in the court without the requirement of proof, and there are no penalties imposed if those allegations are found to be untrue.
Wayne Butler, executive director of the Shared Parenting council of Australia, wrote recently that parties can pretty much do (and say) what they like in a family court matter and get away with it. “There are many clients in the family law system waiting in excess of two years and some three years or more, trying to deal with obstacles in the system preventing them from seeing their children,” Mr Butler said.
We know that in Australia, there are more than 47,000 divorces each year and that the average age for a person getting divorced is 44 for men and 42 for women. Of these, the majority of divorces go through smoothly. Support groups such as Dads in Distress and its sister organisation Mums in Distress estimate 70 percent of these splits go relatively smoothly. Maybe up to 20 percent experience some conflict with the remainder falling into the area of high conflict.
Wayne Butler writes: “I have been assisting one current case where the father’s children have been alienated by the mother for three-and-a-half years. It has now been 30 months since he has had a proper unsupervised relationship with the children for no valid reason other than the allegations made. There is no AVO and even the court notations in orders say there is no family violence. Why can’t the court cut through stalling tactics to save the parent’s relationship, which after three years’ absence from the children’s lives is equal to eternity?”
Senator Madigan says of the political attitude to the family court: “It is disappointing to many that the most recent Federal Government pronouncements about the Family Court consist of raising fees for applicants.”
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we assist our clients to finalise the living arrangements for their children, focusing always on the best interests of the children. We recognise the importance of children maintaining a relationship with both parents after a separation occurs, and we have the expertise to assist parents in reaching agreement about the parenting arrangements for their children. We also recognise that a costly and traumatic court battle is a last resort, and we work with clients to avoid this.
If you need advice about any aspect of separation, divorce or parenting arrangement, contact us today for your FREE, 10-minute phone consultation.