News

Mums told to keep child abuse allegations from family court

LAWYERS are telling mums "to lie to the Family Court" about domestic violence and child abuse because they fear their clients will be seen as trying to alienate the other parent from the kids' lives.

The Family Court's chief justice rejected the allegation, saying there were measures in place to ensure children were safe.

However, a number of experts told ARM Newsdesk they believed if judges suspected "alienation" - which is viewed as emotional abuse of the child - they would award custody to the dangerous parent.

Child sexual assault prevention agency Bravehearts, the National Child Protection Alliance and Dr Deborah Walsh, a domestic violence expert with 20 years experience of the Family Court, confirmed it is common practice for solicitors to warn mothers to keep abuse allegations out of custody proceedings.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said she would be raising her concerns about this and other Family Court issues at a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull next week.

Bravehearts is backing a petition for the Federal Government to roll out a royal commission into Australia's family law system or to expand the terms of reference of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse so it can examine how the Family Court is "failing" children.

Ms Johnstone said she recently spoke to a mum who was told by two legal experts not to bother telling the court about concerns her daughter was being abused.

The woman reported the abuse to police but there was not enough evidence for an arrest, Ms Johnstone said.

"She was told that if she was to do that (lodge the paperwork alleging abuse) the court would frown upon it," Ms Johnstone said.

"She would be viewed by the court as a vexatious mother, bringing about these allegations and coaching her daughter in these allegations - all of the things we've been hearing for 20 years."

RELATED: Family Court of Australia responds to Abbey petition

Can Abbey's heartbreaking story spark family law reform?

National Child Protection Alliance president Maurice Kriss said lawyers were so concerned about putting abuse reports before the court that some refused to represent the non-abusive clients who wanted to tell the truth.

"The solicitor in some cases will refuse to take on the case because he knows in advance the outcome and he doesn't want the stress of fighting a losing battle or, losing a case that will damage his reputation," Mr Kriss said.

"Because of equal parenting laws and attitude of judges towards equal parenting, this is something few solicitors wish to challenge."  

Dr Walsh said re-adjusting the royal commission's investigation framework would ensure any Family Court failings could be investigated in front of the Australian community.

"Yes, I have heard of it happening on a number of occasions," the University of Queensland family violence researcher and lecturer said of the unorthodox legal advice.

"It's very common in domestic violence services for us to hear women be given that sort of advice.

"The commission of inquiry at the moment has uncovered a whole range of institutional abuse of children in care and so their frame of reference could be used to investigate on behalf of the children.

"People come into the family court thinking about justice and ultimately lose their children."

Family Court of Australia chief justice Diana Bryant said she doubted the legal profession was advising people to mislead judges about abuse and that there was legislation in place to protect children.

"I doubt that it is true. I hope it's not true," Chief Justice Bryant said.

"I do understand that these are people's perceptions and they arise from very complex situations.

"The act provides for matters to be raised with the court and they should be.

"No one should ever suggest it's not appropriate in any way (to raise allegations)."

Law Council of Australia Family Law Section chairwoman Wendy Kayler-Thomson said experienced lawyers would not advise their clients to lie to the Family Court.

"The Family Law Section rejects ... allegations about the way that allegations of child sexual abuse are dealt with by the Family Court of Australia," she said.

# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support please phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831; If you are at risk of domestic violence please phone the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

 

Heart-broken mum lobbies for family court investigation

MORE than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for a royal commission into Australia's family law system.

A West Australian mother started the petition in the wake of her daughter Abbey's suicide three years ago.

The 17-year-old killed herself after a family court judge forced her to spend time with her convicted child sex offender father.

"The family court system failed my little girl," the petition, supported by Bravehearts, says.

"They failed me, a protective mother, who in my attempt to protect my children from contact with their abusive father, was dismissed as a 'hysterical woman' and a 'vindictive wife'."

Abbey's mother goes on to describe how the family court believed her daughter should have a "meaningful relationship with both parents".

"The court restricts children from doctor and counselling visits during legal proceedings, discounts their word against a parent's, views reports of sexual assault as vindictive and favours the most financially stable parent," Abbey's mother says.

"It's shameful and dangerous."

To sign the petition visit www.change.org/p/the-family-court-allowed-a-convicted-sex-offender-access-to-my-little-girl-now-she-s-dead?

# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831.

- ARM NEWSDESK  

Topics:  belinda cox child abuse child sex abuse domestic and family violence editors picks family court maurice kriss micah projects



BREAKING: Boyne Smelter to cut jobs after power price hike

Boyne Smelters Ltd, the aluminium smelter on Boyne Island, as seen from an aerial taken December 2014. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer

BSL will be cutting jobs after a power price hike

Landry 'irrelevant in her own backyard': Bill Byrne

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne

'Her party kept her in the dark, like a mushroom'

HEAT WAVE: 6 ways to beat the 40+ Rocky heat

Axel Savage (2) finds relief from the hot weather at the Keppel Kraken water park on Yeppoon Main Beach foreshore.

Temperatures forecast to reach 40 degrees across the region

Local Partners

Dingoes hope to blitz rivals with speed

Blackwater's Dane Heron can't wait to lead the CQ Dingoes at the Coca-Cola Hottest 7s in the World in Darwin this weekend.


New Year New Yard

Win $1000 Bunnings Voucher
Learn More

WHAT'S ON: Your guide to events in CQ this weekend

Aussie Shakespeare is a frenetic and good-humoured canter combining classic Shakespearean stories and characters with Australian themes from cyclones to football to the revolving door of federal politics.

Everything you need to know about events in the region

Excitement builds over Da Vinci exhibition

Exhibition features in excess of 60 models of machines

Puppetry of the Penis secrets revealed ahead of show

The famed Puppetry of the Penis is coming to the Sunshine Coast for shows in Noosa and Caloundra.

WARNING: This interview contains adult themes and traces of nuts

Chelsea Handler blames the Kardashians for Donald Trump win

Chelsea Handler pictured in a scene from her talk show in Los Angeles.

TALK show host blames rise of reality TV family for election result.

Law & Order’s Trump inspired episode is still in limbo

The cast of Law & Order: SVU season 18, from left, Kelli Giddish, Raul Esparza, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T and Peter Scanavino. Supplied by Channel 10.

SHOW'S mastermind unsure if or when twice-delayed episode will air.

Rocky's A.M.P "stoked” to open for metal band, The Amity Affliction

After a year of A.M.P while going through multiple member changes, they still power through. On Sunday the 16th of November, they follow up there performance at Gladstone's leg of the nation wide Metal United Down Under, by sharing the stage with She Cries Wolf for their album release tour.

A.M.P win comp to play support act at Gympie show tomorrow

50 Shades of Bli Bli: Adult theme park plans revealed

THE MIND BOGGLES: Potential buyers of Sunshine Castle at Bli Bli have considered a range of different themes, including an 'adult entertainment venue'.

Sunshine Castle looks to new, prosperous future.

Dating between the sheets on national TV?

Singles meet for the first time in their underwear in the SBS TV series Undressed.

NO shortage of singles willing to get Undressed with a stranger.

What's on the big screen this week

Dev Patel in a scene from the movie Lion.

ACCLAIMED Australian film Lion finally makes its domestic debut.

Ipswich block of dirt sells for $582 a square metre

JUST SOLD: A property on the Brookwater golf course sold for a record-breaking $612,000.

Property smashed 2007 record by close to $100,000

Sunday auction for historical home

Former Catholic school sure to attract spirited bidding

Looking back, looking ahead in Noosa

NEVER-ENDING GLORY: Looking towards Laguna Bay and Hastings St from Noosa National Park.

Natural appeal of Noosa continues to attract buyers

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!